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Kids watch new school take shape

EAGLE POINT — After years of dreaming and months of construction, Little Butte School is closer than ever to becoming Hillside Elementary.

Construction for the 54,000-square-foot school building broke ground early this year, and officials say the building should be abuzz with students by spring of 2012.

New construction is happening next door to the current Little Butte School — a campus with at least one building more than 80 years old.

"It's really coming along just the way we hoped," said Lynn Scott, principal of Little Butte School.

With the new construction happening just steps away from the current school, Scott said it has been enjoyable to be a part of the process.

"It's fun that the kids get to watch it come up," said Scott. "They always stand at the fence and watch."

Scott said talk of a new school has been going on since she first became principal nine years ago.

After Eagle Point Junior High School burned down in 2002, the district began working toward a settlement with New York-based Great American Insurance Company.

"We spent years in negotiations with the insurance company," said Scott.

While bond measures approved before the fire were already funding the construction of two new middle schools in the district, officials continued to work with the insurance company to seek fair compensation.

In 2008, they finally received a $12 million insurance settlement, with plans to use the majority of it to build a new building to replace Little Butte School.

Scott said over the years, the current school at 12 N. Shasta Ave. has begun to show its age.

"You can't plug in everything that you want to plug in," said Scott. "It's just an old building."

Scott said the school also lacks modern conveniences such as central heating and air conditioning.

"Because we knew we were going to replace it, we haven't done serious maintenance in a while," Scott said.

Current estimates for the cost of the new school are just over $11 million, according to district business manager Scott Whitman.

Whitman said there could be some budget fluctuations between now and a planned February completion of the school, and that any leftover funds will be used for other maintenance across the district.

"We are looking out and prioritizing other projects," said Whitman.

The design of the new school will incorporate learning communities, which are large spaces that promote interaction between classes and group activities.

The school will have four classroom wings, each with four to six classrooms that branch out of the main room. The center of the building will be the lobby and offices, library, and a conjoined cafeteria and multi-purpose room.

"The library is huge. It's just beautiful," said Scott, who attends weekly design meetings to stay up to date on the school's progress. "Everything is so fresh and new."

Scott said parents have joined together to add a traverse wall — something described as a horizontal climbing wall — within the multi-purpose room.

Even though she is excited about the new building, Scott said the old school does have a rich history to be appreciated.

"Years and years of families have attended this school," she said.

Reach reporter Teresa Ristow at 541-776-4459 or email tristow@mailtribune.com.