South Medford project under way

The Medford School District formally broke ground Monday for construction of the new South Medford High School, the first high school to be built in Medford since 1967.

"This is a wonderful day, a wonderful event, and I'm really happy it's here," said Larry Nicholson, Medford School Board chairman.

The ceremony, involving about 150 students, school officials, local politicians and contractors, was largely symbolic. Actual construction is expected to begin no sooner than mid-July, or until the required city, state and federal permits have been issued.

Meanwhile, the district continues to collect contractor bids for a site work, steel and concrete package due today and a mechanical, electrical and plumbing package due June 19.

The foundation could be poured as early as August, pending approval of the permits for storm water retention, wetland mitigation, site work and building construction.

The goal is to open the new school by fall 2010.

Participants at Monday's event dug their shovels into the northeast corner of the property, where contractor Hogan Construction will stage construction operations and store equipment.

The South Medford band played British rocker Gary Glitter's "Rock and Roll Part 2," better known as the "Hey Song" amid the aroma of hot dogs, which students stood in line to gobble up.

The 255,000-square-foot school will be built on a 42-acre site at the intersection of Columbus and Cunningham avenues to replace the existing 77-year-old building on Oakdale Avenue.

"We love our old building, but we simply outgrew it, and this looks like a great place for the Panthers," said South Medford Principal Kevin Campbell, gesturing to the sunlit field behind him. "This is a great day for the blue and gray."

"It's really exciting that we'll be in a new school," said freshman Richelle Gibbs, who would be in the first class to graduate from the new high school in 2011.

The $82 million project accounts for about 43 percent of a $189 million school bond issue voters narrowly approved in November 2006, which included improvements for all 18 district-owned campuses.

The future of the project was briefly in doubt in late 2007 when costs came in significantly higher than anticipated, climbing $17 million higher than estimates pitched during the bond election.

The school board decided the district needed the new high school and might not have the money in the future to build a new one, so it pushed the project forward.

How the existing school will be used once the new school is built has not yet been decided, but football games and other athletic events will continue to be played at Spiegelberg Stadium, located at the old campus.

Reach reporter Paris Achen at 541-776-4459 or

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