North Powder school breaks in new classes

By Dick Mason, The Observer September 12, 2013 07:16 am

Many children and teachers were smiling broadly at North Powder Elementary School Monday. And somewhere far above was the radiant smile of one Riki Anderson.

The Riki Anderson Wing of North Powder Elementary School officially took flight Monday when its three new classrooms opened after a frenzied push to get the rooms ready. 

The finishing touches were put on the classrooms, which are for students in third, fourth and fifth grades, late last week, the first week of the school year. Teachers and volunteers then spent the weekend working feverishly to move into their new classrooms, ones which provide many students with much more space than they previously had.

“I was so tired at the end of each night (last weekend) but I was so thankful,” said third-grade teacher Molly Smith. 

North Powder Principal Gerald Hopkins said he could not be happier 

“I am just overjoyed,” Hopkins said. “I’m just ecstatic.”

The new space also includes a cafeteria that opened in January. 

The classrooms are named for Anderson, a former teacher at North Powder Elementary who died of cancer last June, just two months before construction of the new cafeteria and classrooms started. 

“She was a gem of a teacher,” Hopkins said.

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.

Anderson did so much for these children that North Powder Elementary’s staff will later dedicate a room in their school to the late teacher. The room will be stocked with items for children in need, including clothing, athletic gear and personal hygiene items, said Betsy Nedrow, a paraprofessional at North Powder Elementary.

Nedrow and Hopkins said Anderson was so dedicated to the children of North Powder Elementary that she made frequent return visits to her school even when her failing health had left her weak.

“She said that kids make her happy and healthy,” Hopkins said. 

Children who welcomed the additional space in their new classrooms included fifth-grader Justin Ash.

“It feels like there is more space everywhere,” Ash said.

The $1.1 million 10,000-square foot classroom and cafeteria wing was built because of growing enrollment in the North Powder School District. North Powder had 218 students six years ago and today has 297. 

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.

North Powder’s third-, fourth- and fifth-grade classrooms were previously housed in buildings outside the main school building. The third and fourth graders were in a modular structure and the fifth-graders were in the district’s health center building. 

Fifth-grader Autumn Barajas is excited about the opportunity to now be in a building with students from other grades, including two siblings.

“I have a sister next door and next door again,” Barajas said. 

All three of the new classrooms have cabinets and countertops made possible by a $5,000 donation from Lowe’s, a home improvement company. The project also received a boost from North Powder Elementary’s Parent Teacher Community Organization, which provided a donation of more than $1,000. 

Much of the work in the classrooms involving painting, wiring, lighting and sanding was done by volunteers. Each teacher selected the color they wanted to paint their room. The teachers then painted their rooms before school started. 

Fifth-grade teacher Dana Marlia painted a portion of her room navy blue, reflecting her allegiance to the New York Yankees, her favorite Major League Baseball team. 

The volunteers who helped Marlia, Smith and fourth-grade teacher Skye Flanagan move into their classrooms over the weekend included many parents. 

Flanagan said he enjoyed doing the extra work needed over the weekend to set up in new classrooms.

“It is always fun when there is something different but you know what the end result will be,” he said.

Contact Dick Mason at 541-786-5386 or This e-mail address is being protected from spam bots, you need JavaScript enabled to view it Follow Dick on Twitter @lgoMason.