EAST WENATCHEE — School administators cut a ribbon to celebrate completion of Sterling Middle School Monday night. But most middle schoolers and the school’s teachers won’t get to enjoy it for awhile.
The newly renovated school is being used by Eastmont High School students this year while an extensive remodel of that nearby school is completed. About 200 out of about 850 middle school students are attending one wing at Sterling. The rest have been moved for the year to Clovis Intermediate School or one of Eastmont School District’s five elementary schools. And so have their teachers.
For now, Sterling is home to more than 1,400 mostly high school students. And the test run at full capacity is going smoothly, said Chris Hall, Sterling’s principal.
“It’s amazing to see the flow of kids. It doesn’t seem like that many because of the school’s great design,” Hall said. About 1,200 kids eat lunch in the school’s cafeteria every day. “It’s a little tight, but it’s working,” he said, showing the position he takes during lunch hour that gives him a wide view of the commons as well as students coming and going throughout the school’s wide hallways. “If you include the portables, we can house more kids here that at the high school.”
It may have to. The school board and administrators are discussing whether Sterling will handle two or three grades in future years to avoid a bottleneck of larger classes moving through district elementary schools. In the recent past, Sterling has schooled about 850 fifth- and sixth-graders. A third class of either fourth- or seventh-graders would expand student population to about 1,300.
Eastmont Superintendent Garn Christiansen said Hall and other administrators finally have a smile on their faces as the district’s three-year project to remodel three schools moves into its final phase. Residents of the school district narrowly approved a $30 million bond to build rebuild Sterling, Eastmont and Grant Elementary School. The state chipped in the rest of the $75 million project. The Sterling remodel cost about $23 million. The school was originally built in the 1960s.
Hall said he and his staff are really looking forward to things getting back to normal in a new school next year. ALSC architects and Lydig Construction modernized the school and turned it into a vessel for student learning as well as a center for the community, he said.
“I can turn on the heat and the lights and open or close the doors from my living room. You go out of a room and the lights turn off automatically,” said Hall. “It’s crazy. Considering where we came from, it’s unbelievable.”