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Schoolhouse to reopen on 100th anniversary

APPLEGATE — The school bell will ring again next fall when the Applegate School's brick classroom building reopens on its 100th anniversary following an 11-year closure and nearly $1 million in upgrades.

"Once the school year begins, we'll have assigned students ring the bell," said Principal Stephanie Allen. Bell ringing was a school tradition before the building closed.

In 2000, classes for first- through fourth-graders were moved into portable classrooms after the structure was deemed unsound due to seismic problems. Three Rivers School District lacked the funds to rehabilitate it.

"Our concern was that it would get to the place where it wasn't repairable because it wasn't on anybody's maintenance schedule," said Allen, who has been at the school eight years.

A grant opportunity, brought to the attention of Kara Olmo of Wooldridge Creek Winery by Aaron Ausland, led to an Oregon Emergency Management seismic rehabilitation grant of $826,000, which was awarded in March 2010. Ausland Builders had been working on another project at the time that had received one of the grants.

"He knew that I was really interested in working on a project to get the schoolhouse usable again," said Olmo. "He gave me a call about 10 days before the grant applications were due."

Applegate School was eligible for the grant because it is a designated community meeting place during emergencies such as wildfires or earthquakes.

"I was project manager to get all the supporting documents and resources," said Olmo. Ausland Builders researched the technical data needed for the application.

A grant requirement called for $5,000 in local cash funding. Applegate Parent Teacher Student Group, Country House Inn, Greater Applegate Community Development Corp., Applegate Vintners and the Three Rivers School Foundation each contributed $1,000.

Construction of the two-story building started in 1910, and it was occupied in December 1912.

Ausland Builders has performed the rehabilitation work, which included removing the roof to install steel support beams.

Other work included a new heating and air system, new windows, a new roof, new ceilings and new lighting, and the bell tower was reinforced.

About $65,000 in materials and services were contributed to the project, said Olmo. Three Rivers School District has performed some of the repair work.

Friends of the Applegate School are conducting a drive to raise $35,000 for finish work and technology upgrades. A coin drive by students at the school raised $1,240 toward the effort.

Kindergarten through third-grade classes will be on the upper floor next fall, said Allen. The daylight basement will include spaces for counseling, special services, a family advocate, SMART Readers and the custodial staff.

"I have many friends and neighbors who have been here for generations and are really focused on keeping the social aspect of our community alive," said Olmo. "The schools are integral to that."

The rehabilitation effort has helped build bridges between new, emerging businesses in the area and longtime residents, said Olmo.

"The Applegate staff is very consistent," said Allen. "Some have been here as students. It's exciting for their parents and grandparents."

An open house with a Lions Club barbecue will be held at the school on June 7 to celebrate the effort. During the open house, the old school bell will ring again.

Information on the fund drive and project can be found at friendsofapplegateschool.com.