New building addition honors memory of second-grade teacher

By Dick Mason, The Observer February 13, 2013 10:24 am

by DICK MASON / The Observer

NORTH POWDER — Few people were more excited than North Powder Elementary second-grade teacher Riki Anderson when plans for the construction of a new $1.1 million wing for her school were announced in 2011.

The grade school teacher dreamed of later having a classroom in the new wing. Tragically, Anderson, 42, died of cancer on June 12, 2012, about two months before construction of the school addition started. Anderson’s passing, however, will not prevent her from having an everlasting presence in the North Powder Elementary addition. 

North Powder school leaders are making sure of it.

The wing is being named in Anderson’s honor. A dedication ceremony will soon be conducted at a date to be announced.

“She’d love it (the building addition),’’ said North Powder School District Superintendent Lance Dixon.

Anderson would love the new wing but not as much as she loved North Powder’s students. Anderson was well known for her concern about the welfare of her school’s students. One of her biggest worries involved children who did not have warm winter clothing. Anderson worked tirelessly to provide coats for children from families in need, maintaining a supply of them at school which were available to students. She also tried hard to make sure all children in her school received Christmas gifts. 

“She always worried about the needs of children in need,’’ said North Powder School District Superintendent Lance Dixon.

 Work on the building addition named in honor of Anderson started in August and impressive strides have been made. A milestone was marked in January when lunch was served for the first time in the wing’s cafeteria, one complete with a large kitchen. When complete, the wing will also have three classrooms, all set to be finished by the end of the school year.

The new cafeteria has students and faculty buzzing with excitement, for it represents a major improvement for the district’s food service program. The cafeteria has many times more space than the district’s old cafeteria in the basement of Powder Valley High School. 

Another plus is that the cafeteria is connected to the main grade school building. This means most grade schoolers are now a short hallway walk from the cafeteria. It also means that grade schoolers no longer have to cross Fourth Street when walking to the high school for lunch. Kindergarten teacher Karen Tannehill said this makes things safer for grade school students. 

Expanded size is the first thing grade schoolers mention when talking about the virtues of the new cafeteria. 

The larger space area also means that students can eat without feeling rushed. Tannehill explained that in the old cafeteria students were encouraged to eat quickly so they could leave for recess and make room for students behind them. 

Betsy Nedrow noted that students now have more opportunities to sit and eat with friends. Previously they had to sit wherever there was space.

Nedrow also said the additional space makes the cafeteria more family friendly, noting that it is now easier for brothers and sisters to eat together. She also thinks that more parents may come to eat with their sons and daughters now that there is more space.

The new cafeteria is on ground level and has loading area food distributors can easily drive up to. This is a contrast to the old cafeteria. Anyone entering it had to walk up stairs to get into the high school and then go down stairs to get into the cafeteria. 

Today, bringing food and supplies into the cafeteria is a no-sweat proposition, said Vicky Brown, the head of the North Powder School District’s food service program.

 “The delivery people are jumping for joy.’’

Delivery truck drivers though are not as happy as Brown, who is delighted with the additional space in the cafeteria and its kitchen. This is providing more space not only for students to eat, but also food storage and opportunities to teach students about food processing and cooking techniques for healthy foods.

“It is an awesome building,’’ Brown said.

The 10,000-square foot is being built because of growing enrollment in the North Powder School District. North Powder had 218 students five years ago and today has about 280. 

The elementary school expansion project is being paid for with $300,000 from the district building fund and a $750,000 low interest loan. The district will make payments of about $40,000 a year for the next 30 years to pay off the loan.