Good to Grow

Dufur School District launches a major improvement project
By Kathy Ursprung

Jack Henderson, Dufur School District superintendent, stands amid materials that will be used to build new bleachers in Dufur School’s second gym.

Jack Henderson thinks about the future a lot these days.

As superintendent of Dufur School District overseeing the early stages of an $8.4 million school improvement project, Jack knows the district is preparing to better meet the needs of a growing student population.

Safety is also a high priority for the district.

“As we finish the school year, we will be working on the front entry,” Jack says.

Following winter’s heavy snow, huge chunks of ice slid off the roof onto the entry area, putting students at risk.

“With the new, expanded front entry area, that won’t happen anymore,” Jack says.

The entry also will provide increased security by making visitors check in before they enter the school’s lobby. Previously, visitors could avoid signing in. The new procedure will be safer for visitors, students, and staff.

Dufur School’s buildings house kindergarten through 12th grade. The original school was built in 1956. An addition was built in 2008-2009.

Phase I projects already underway include replacement of gym bleachers in the original gym, addition of bleachers in the second building’s gym, and reconfiguring the existing parking lot. The bleachers should be finished in time for graduation.

Other projects in this phase at Dufur School include:

  • Redoing the football field, including in-ground irrigation.
  • Creating a bus loop outside the main parking lot.
  • Remodeling the office area to create more usable space.
  • Remodeling restrooms in the original building.
  • Adding new heating and air conditioning in both gyms.

Petersburg School, which Dufur doesn’t use now for educational purposes, will get a new roof, windows, and HVAC units in anticipation of reopening the school to accommodate district growth.

Dufur acquired Petersburg in the wave of school district consolidations in the 1990s. The small school on Fifteenmile Road outside The Dalles has housed a variety of programs.

But the district is growing. Its student population of 336 is an all-time high. “We anticipate reopening Petersburg in the next couple of years,” Jack says. Several factors are driving growth.

First, a 50-house subdivision is proposed for Dufur. Second, the federal government plans to provide homes for Native American fishing families who live in substandard conditions at in-lieu fishing sites.

Dufur already serves the Native American youth in Celilo Village 13 miles east of The Dalles and those who live at the in-lieu site, but anticipate growth with new housing.

Dufur also has added more students by providing preschool for 3- and 4-year-olds. This year’s kindergarten class is the largest ever.

A rendering shows the planned entrance expansion at Dufur School, which will improve safety and security. The new design will incorporate wood reclaimed from the school’s vintage bleacher risers, which are being replaced. Rendering courtesy of Straight-line Architecture

“We are continuing to look for ways to provide service to the community,” Jack says.

Some students have started kindergarten with two or three years of preschool preparation. Others have had none.

“We are learning more and more that even young kids grow in an educational environment,” Jack says.

Phase II of the improvement project includes:

  • Construction of a new bus barn, replacing the too-small former road department shed that has served that purpose.
  • Addition of two locker rooms for the upper gym.
  • A weight room in the upper gym.
  • A training room in the upper gym.

Voters approved a $4 million capital improvement bond in November 2018 with 70% support. While that plays a big role in funding the project, grants play an equal role. Dufur won a $4 million Oregon School Improvement Match grant from the state and a $50,000 planning grant from the Oregon Department of Education.

The bus barn project also will receive state funding. The Oregon Department of Transportation reimburses school districts for 80% of transportation costs and will reimburse at the same rate for transportation facilities over a 25-year repayment period.

Energy Looks Brighter at Dufur

This summer, Dufur School will generate some of its own power from a new solar energy system.

Dufur has been selected as a renewable school through Bonneville Environmental Foundation’s “Clean Energy. Bright Futures” program.

“Clean Energy. Bright Futures will provide an educational opportunity as well as an opportunity to generate electricity through solar,” says Jack Henderson, school district superintendent.

A kiosk in the main school building will allow anyone to track the energy produced by the demonstration-scale photovoltaic system.

A $40,000 grant from Google and a $20,000 grant from Northern Wasco County PUD helped fund the project.

The goal is to help build a nation of energy-literate citizens who understand the science and critical role solar power plays in the world’s energy future.

Teachers will receive special training and science kits. The new education component will become part of Dufur’s STEM—Science, Technology, Engineering and Math—curriculum.

“We hope to include that down into the middle school level as well,” Jack says.