The hallways of Shady Cove School were abuzz Wednesday with nearly 100 more students than last year, as three grades of former Elk Trail Elementary School kids settled into their new campus.
The youngest students moved into the classrooms closest to the school office, while secondary grades took over classes in an unused wing of the school that borders the playground.
"I was sad about Elk Trail closing, but I'm trying to get used to it," said Lillie Newsom, a fourth-grader who was attending her first day of class at her new school.
Newsom said it was nice to attend school with her two older sisters in the adjoining Shady Cove Middle School, but said she would miss her old campus.
"The school was almost 100 years old," said Newsom, 9, as she headed for the playground Wednesday morning.
The Eagle Point School Board narrowly voted in the spring to close the rural Elk Trail Elementary, citing a $1.5 million cost-revenue gap for the 2012-13 school year.
Students and staff from the K-3 school outside of Trail were transferred to Shady Cove, which previously had grades 4-8 and one class of kindergartners.
The merger is estimated to bring enrollment up to about 250 students for the year, although newly registered students are still trickling in.
The board accepted the recommendation from Superintendent Cynda Rickert, who said that about two-thirds of the Elk Trail students were bused from Shady Cove, and the school had the highest per-pupil costs in the district.
"We were taking the youngsters away from Shady Cove, and only about 30-some kids lived in Trail," said Rickert.
Administrators estimated the closure would save the district about $234,000 a year.
The consolidation also will be a boon for staff members who had to commute about six miles between campuses each day, including an instructional coach, speech pathologist and Principal Tiffanie Lambert, who oversaw both schools.
"It's nice for families to have all the kids in the same school," said Lambert, who became principal nearly two years ago.
Lambert said that parents have a positive attitude about the consolidation, and the frustration expressed by families while the board considered the closure seems to have faded.
During a community forum last December, parents were angered with the proposal to close the school, with many threatening to pull their kids from the district if the closure happened. Others said they would prefer to cut school days rather than close the school.
Lambert said that despite the sadness over the closed campus, it doesn't appear that any students have left the district because of it.
"We've had good enrollment, just what we predicted," said Lambert. "What I've heard is good feedback."
Lambert said Elk Trail students voted last year on which play structures to move from their old school to Shady Cove, with the most popular piece reassembled by maintenance crews last week.
"The equipment gets a lot of use, even when school is not in session," said Lambert.
Shady Cove's standardized test results and attendance data last year earned the school the distinction of a "model" school under the state's new growth-measured assessments.
Shady Cove and Ashland's John Muir School were the only two campuses in Jackson County to earn the distinction, and a banner identifying the school's status hangs on the playground fence.
"It's quite an honor to be a model school," said Lambert, who thinks the new Elk Trail staff will benefit from the school's success. "We have put a lot into play academically, and we have a committed staff."
Reach reporter Teresa Ristow at 541-776-4459 or firstname.lastname@example.org.