Folks regularly look out for us here at the Hood River News, helping us chronicle the life and times of this amazing town.
I would compare it to the work of the aides and volunteers in our schools who augment the teaching by guiding kids in reading and other support roles.
Last week it was Tom McKnight, a regular donor of sports photos, who sent us his poignant photo of the ribbon-cutting at May Street School on Oct. 3. I only need to point out the expressions of delighted anticipation on the faces of the students and their parents, as well as Principal Kelly Beard holding the scissors, and School Board Chair Chrissy Reitz holding the ribbon.
For the past 18 months I’ve watched closely, as reporter and neighbor, the remarkable changes at May Street School.
My hat goes off to principal Kelly Beard and to Mike Carter, the project supervisor with Kirby Nagelhout Construction. (I will get tricked sometimes when I hear “Kirby” around the school and people are not beckoning me but referring to the builders.)
Indeed, the new school is built, and it is a beauty; and Carter, like Beard, is still on the job as the new May Street School project goes on: Look for paving of May Street between 8th and 10th this week, and paving the new parking lot in late October.
Carter is also dealing with underground surprises 23 and 24 in the May Street demolition project. He told me last week that crews found two long-disused oil tanks — one metal, one concrete — that they had not known were there. Being full of old oil, they have to be carefully removed and the contents disposed of. That will add a little time to the project. Carter and his crew, as usual, are rolling with it.
Kelly Beard I have known since his days as Pine Grove principal, and it has been enjoyable to see him grow into the job of May Street principal. He followed a tough act in his predecessor, Dan Patton, and whoever replaces Beard some day will also face a tough act to follow.
The principal, who looks pretty young for father of college-grad kids, took on the May Street project with aplomb. He’s shown remarkable leadership throughout the construction and the physical and emotional transitions that students, staff, and parents all went through.
It’s the first time in 31 years the district has built an all-new school, and now the project is all but done — except for the parking lot and playground to come this winter and spring.
When the district cut the ribbon Thursday, with hundreds of kids and parents filling the welcoming main lobby. (The massive photos of the former May Street building greet anyone walking in, and it’s a meaningful touch.)
The same with the old gym bleacher boards, re-milled and lovingly restored to the east wall of the gym as well as the main office and the library. You can see, and touch, the old handrails used to pull out the bleachers.
The photo of the late Teddy Webber, gymnasium namesake, is back in the gym entry way, and the class of 1918 bench — dedicated 100 years ago this month — has a place of honor in the courtyard. May Street School new well-remembers May Street School old.
Also impressive are the large-scale photos at each “neighborhood” in the school: Images of Mt. Hood, Adams, Multnomah Falls, and the Gorge, with interpretive maps and facts blown up large and easy to read, a constant reminder of the deep geological and cultural history of the Gorge surrounding May Street.
At the ribbon-cutting, Beard placed a couple of classy touches on his remarks. He began:
“I would first pay respect and thanks to the First People who for so many generations were stewards of this land.
“I would also like to remember that all our ancestors have a hand in this.”
He thanked former superintendent Dan Goldman and the past and present school board, for their support and guidance during the bond levy passage, and the school planning and construction.
I nearly missed the ribbon-cutting because I got into conversation with Molly Barber, a parent who brought with her a fragrant gesture of her appreciation for Beard: A bouquet of flowers.
My photo of her handing it to Beard caught an expression of pure surprise and gratitude on the face of the ever-upbeat but unflappable Beard.
Barber said that her son, Jameson, has attended May Street for three years, and is now a fourth-grader.
“My son is always so impressed that Kelly is always out there with the kids at recess, he takes such an active role in the school. He’s just awesome,” Barber said.
In her remarks, Reitz added her own thanks to Beard, “For his stewardship and love for both May Street schools.”
Reitz’s remarks well-summarized what needed to be said at this auspicious moment in the May Street community:
“Thank you to all the staff of May Street. Teaching and supporting elementary children can be hard enough without the disruption of playground equipment right outside your windows, loss of ample parking, construction teams in and out of your space, and boxing up classrooms that some of you have been in for. .. well, a lot of years. Thank you.
“To the May Street students and families: Thank you for guidance, understanding and for giving up your play field for two years. We hope it was worth the wait.
“To our neighbors in the May Street area: We recognize the hardships that the construction has caused, we thank you for your patience and support.
“I am extremely proud of the work we do here at HRCSD. The dedication from all of our staff to ensure that each student graduates with the knowledge and courage to learn, serve, and pursue their dreams is unparalleled. I am proud that I get to raise my children in a community that values education and understands that, in the words of Malcolm X, ‘Education is the passport to the future, for tomorrow belongs to those who prepare for it today.’”
Beard also gave thanks to the community for its support, “Specifically the neighbors on all four sides for their patience and sacrifices during construction.”
He also thanked the staff of construction supervision group, Opsis Architects and Kirby Nagelhout “For their expertise and their willingness to allow me to always bring the focus back to students.
“I want to thank all the staff for hard work, dedication and endurance during this massive undertaking.
“I’d like to thank the students, for their curiosity, joy and love of learning that makes this all worthwhile,” Beard concluded.