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Hood River County School District Celebrates the May Street Elementary Grand Opening With a Ceremonial Ribbon Cutting

Hood River County School District Celebrates the May Street Elementary Grand Opening With a Ceremonial Ribbon Cutting

Principal Kelly Beard at the May Street Elementary Grand Opening
Principal Kelly Beard (left) and School Board Chair Chrissy Reitz lead the ceremonial ribbon cutting for the May Street Elementary community grand opening. View more photos. Photo credit: Tom McKnight

Hood River - On Thursday, Hood River County School District opened its first new school in 50 years, made possible by community support for the 2016 construction bond. Wenaha Group, Opsis Architecture, Kirby Nagelhout Construction, and committees made of educators and community members worked collaboratively to build a state-of-the-art school that emphasizes student learning, safety and historical preservation.

“This facility is a stunning result of everyone’s commitment to the children in our community,” says Kelly Beard, the May Street principal since 2011. “Our new May Street Elementary School building is the result of years of hard work, commitment, and patience from our entire community, and it will be a true community resource centered around the needs of children that will serve us for generations to come.”

Historical preservation details:

  • The historic photos in the entry hallway not only celebrate the history of past May Street Schools, but they also help to absorb noise in the hallway.
  • The original school bell from 1891 has been reinstalled at the entrance.
  • The bleachers from the former gym were recycled to be used for the front office reception desk and in the library.
  • Two existing memorial cherry trees have been transplanted to the corner of 10th and May Street, along with their memorial plaques.
  • Classrooms are grouped in “neighborhoods” around a shared common space. This eliminates hallways and creates more space for students to learn. Each neighborhood is identified by the indigenous name of a landmark in the Gorge, celebrating the region’s long cultural history.
  • The mural in the Commons, designed by Allison Bell Fox, was painted by May Street students. The names of the last fifth grade class in the old building are incorporated into the scales of the red dragon.

“The new May Street School is an exciting project where innovative learning environments break up the school into smaller, grade-level neighborhoods that surround flexible, extended learning spaces,” says Alec Holser, partner with Opsis Architecture. “It is uniquely planned as a school without corridors, where every space connects to a dramatic, two-story commons and central courtyard. All spaces in the building have access to daylight and views to the outside, connecting students with nature and their community. The design process has been wonderfully interactive involving teachers, staff, administration and the Hood River Community. We couldn’t be more excited about the opening of May Street School and what it means to the Hood River community.”

Design features:

  • A safer and secure entry to the school was created where visitors are greeted before entering the school. The rest of the county’s schools have been retrofitted with similar entryways, or are in the process of gaining such an entryway.
  • A new preschool classroom is built at the west end of the commons.
  • Common outdoor classrooms were created for messy projects and a future garden.
  • All parts of the building are now easily accessible to people with physical disabilities.
  • Rainwater from the roof flows across grassy swales in the lawn for cleaning before being sent to the storm drain system and eventually into the river systems beyond.
  • All rooms in the building have large, operable windows, allowing for natural light and fresh air.
  • Solar panels cover the roof all along the south side of the building. Solar panels set in glass cover the South Central courtyard. They can provide enough energy to power eight homes or recharge 46,000 cell phones every day.
  • The side of the building on Pine Street was designed so that its height was reduced and location pulled back from the street to be a good neighbor to adjacent homes.

“We are incredibly thankful for the continued investment that is being made from our Hood River County community who always keep students at the center of what we stand for and value,” says Superintendent Dr. Sara Hahn-Huston. “We are grateful for the community support, teamwork and engagement resulting in a modern facility that celebrates May Street’s rich history.”