Cascade Locks adjusts to life without middle schoolers

June 18, 2011

The school's size, but not the spirit, will shrink at Cascade Locks, says Andrea Rogers.

"It's sad to become smaller, but we'll all adjust," said Rogers, school secretary and parent.

Friday was the final day of middle school at Cascade Locks, which will become a K-6 facility in 2011-12. Earlier this year, the Hood River County School Distrjct Board of Directors approved the administration's recommendation that, due to declining enrollment, Cascade Locks seventh- and eighth-graders be transferred to Hood River Middle School.

"It'll be sad. It'll definitely change the building. It gets quieter every year," Rogers said.

The current elementary wing will be closed off next year, and those classrooms shifted into what is now the middle school wing, "so students won't be walking through empty hallways," she said.

Kim Vogel will be part-time principal at Cascade Locks next year, in addition to her duties as Parkdale principal. Dan Patton, who was principal this year on one-year retirement contract, is leaving to be principal of a school in Ellensburg, Wash. (Patton had a total of 10 years in the district, including six years at May Street and three at Westside.)

PE teacher Ed Goin led the middle schoolers to Thunder Island Thursday for the annual end-of-the-year "capture the flag" game.

He thinks the students will adjust well to the transfer to other middle schools.

"This is probably the nicest group of middle schoolers I've worked with here at Cascade Locks," said Goin, who retires this month after seven years at Cascade Locks and 26 years before that at Mid Valley. "They really work well together, and have been a real pleasure."

The outlook is positive, from the viewpoints of Nick Harbaugh and Jessica Boyles, who have both been Cascade Locks students since kindergarten. They will enter the seventh grade at Hood River Middle School in the fall.

"I'm excited because of the opportunities but sad the middle school is closing after the high school just closed," Harbaugh said. (The school has been K-8 since 2009-10.)

Boyles said, "It's kind of scary because there's so many people there and I don't know any of them but I think almost everyone else (from Cascade Locks) is going so at least I'll have people I know."

She has enjoyed Cascade Locks because of "all the people. They're nice to each other. There are no bullies here, not like bigger schools."

Harbaugh said the biggest change over the years at Cascade Locks is "All the kids are leaving and there's not as many people and not as many teachers. We pretty much have four teachers, and there used to be like eight."

Boyles said she likes the expanded opportunities at Hood River Middle School.

"On the electives I chose oceanography. I really want to do that."

"All the electives and enrichment classes are great," Harbaugh said, "and the way they do things over there. I'm looking forward to the rock climbing."

Rogers' son, Lucas, will be an eighth-grader at HRMS and said he is "excited" about it.

"As a parent I'm a little anxious about, it but he's a great student. I think he'll have an opportunity to explore things and have other friendships, other kids to pull from. I'm not excited about the bus ride, but we'll get used to that.

"I feel that if a parent is positive about the move, the kids will be positive and do well," Rogers said.

For Cascade Locks' part, as it grows smaller, Rogers said, "I'm waiting for the school to stabilize.

"You remove one school and it affects the next school. The community needs to come together and support the school.

"We go up to Hood River and it's 'Oh, are you guys still there?' We have a great school. our kids have more technology access," Rogers said. Cascade Locks has a newly modernized media room and every classroom has a computerized "smart board," which allows for interactive instruction for the entire classroom.

But digital advances aside, Rogers noted that the feeling of the school will be changed forever without middle schoolers present every day.

"It will definitely have a lot less of the drama that middle schoolers bring to it."

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