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‘Oakdale’ passes the test

Jamie Lusch / Mail Tribune Ron Havniear, director of facilities and leadership development, walks through renovations that are underway at the new Oakdale Middle School in Medford.
Medford school board unanimously names newest middle school after the historic neighborhood in which it resides

Oakdale Middle School it is.

On Nov. 18, the Medford School District Board of Directors voted on an official name for its third middle school, located at 815 S. Oakdale Ave.

The new school, which is set to open in the fall of 2023, gets its name from the South Oakdale Historic District, added to the National Register of Historic Places in 1979.

“I do want to say, ‘Oakdale Middle School’ is so exciting,” Medford School District Superintendent Bret Champion told board members at the conclusion of the meeting. “It’s like this symbol of hope in the middle of all of this stuff we’ve been doing. … Literally, on my whiteboard, I say, ‘don’t stop celebrating Oakdale Middle School.’”

Whereas new facilities would get a committee to come up with recommendations for names, the building on South Oakdale is 80 years old, so the district’s policy on naming new facilities did not apply. Since there is no policy for renaming facilities, officials with the school district agreed the name put forth to the board for consideration would be “Oakdale.”

“Staff just naturally started referring to the property as the ‘Oakdale Property Middle School’ and it just sort of stuck,” Natalie Hurd, communications specialist, told the newspaper.

Oakdale endorsement

Vicki Bryden, a longtime resident of Medford who wrote the application for the district to be placed on the National Register, endorsed the name because of the role the school has had in the neighborhood.

“Built in 1931, the school is a central focal point for the South Oakdale Historic District,” wrote Bryden, who noted the neighborhood’s placement on the National Register. “That designation recognized the history of the many residents who were the community leaders in Medford. It is that rich history, including the school’s, that is the backbone of the historic neighborhood. The name Oakdale Middle School would recognize and honor that role. Sharing that history with students could be a wonderful tie to their community.”

Medford City Manager Brian Sjothun also expressed his support for the new name in a conversation with Champion — though the two pointed out that the decision did not require the city’s approval

“When Bret asked my thoughts on the potential new middle school name, I voiced my support because it pays tribute to the historical Oakdale neighborhood rather than one individual,” Sjothun wrote in an email to the newspaper. “It’s no secret that our residents have a special interest in what happens with the south Oakdale property, and I believe that any step the district can take to preserve or honor the historical significance of the building and the neighborhood is a good one.”

Suggesting a name

Before the board approved the new name Nov. 18, David Sommers, band teacher at Hendrick Middle School, had another suggestion: Rowden Middle School.

“Rowden,” Sommers said, was the last name of two Medford High School graduates, John Wayne Rowden and James Herbert Rowden, who were killed during the Vietnam War. One of the Rowden brothers gave his blessing on the name suggestion, which Sommers presented to the board.

“I think it presents an opportunity to name the building these two brothers went to after them and their sacrifice for our country, and also to give a little bit of recognition to our Vietnam veterans, who have been so overlooked in the last 50 years,” Sommers said during the meeting.

When the board held a discussion on naming the future middle school before it voted, members were in consensus that, while they appreciated the suggestion, it would be best to have a name that resonated with the entire community.

However, the members believed the district could still honor Sommers’ suggestion by establishing a veterans’ memorial at the new middle school.

School board member Jim Horner, a veteran himself, put Sommers’ suggestion into perspective.

“It’s a very real thing, it’s very real,” he said, referring to the war’s impacts on soldiers, including a roommate of his from Stanford University.

After the meeting, Sommers told the Mail Tribune he was not offended that the board didn’t name the school what he hoped.

“It seemed like they … gathered background information and already put in the hours into researching and contacting various community and historical groups, so I was a bit late in the process,” he wrote. “I’m hopeful that the district will use some part of Oakdale Middle School as a memorial to not only the Rowden brothers, but to all of the fallen service personnel who attended the building over the years.”

He said he would be happy to help in making the memorial possible and looks forward to the opening of Oakdale Middle School.

Reach reporter Kevin Opsahl at 541-776-4476 or kopsahl@rosebudmedia.com. Follow him on Twitter @KevJourno.