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New Bridge High School Groundbreaking Ceremony

posted Oct 17, 2016, 9:00 AM by Eileen Dryer   [ updated Oct 17, 2016, 9:02 AM ]

A wall is coming down and a new school is going up.

Known as New Bridge High School, the 13,700-square-foot facility will arise next to the Rogue Valley Youth Correctional Facility by the end of next year, and part of that 15-foot concrete wall will go to make room for a pathway connecting them.

The 100 youth who reside in the prison on Northeast F Street behind Wal-Mart currently do not have a designated school.

"Their high school education consists of a room in their living room," said Rex Emery, facilities manager for Oregon Youth Authority, the state agency that runs the prison. "It's not a normal adolescent experience."

Ground was officially broken — with golden shovels — for the new building on Thursday. New Bridge Principal Brent Workley said bringing down the wall symbolizes a new mindset and will bring normalcy to teens who may need it most.

"We want them to leave with the skills to never have to return," Workley said.

The new building will be a drastically different environment than what the youth have experienced since the facility opened in the late 1990s.

"Students do better in a classroom situation where they have fresh air, natural light, views to nature. It improves learning, instead of concrete walls," Emery said.

The new building, which will cost $9.9 million, paid for by the state, will include four traditional classrooms with large windows, two digital media classrooms, a commons area, quiet rooms, and a staff workroom.

Instead of the single acre of current recreation area, the youth will also get 9 acres of recreation space at the new site.

The high school will be Oregon Youth Authority's first LEED certified building and the second largest such facility in the state. LEED stands for Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design.

Solar panels will grace the roof of the high school, all fixtures will be low-flow to reduce water use, a swale system will be put in place to sponge up storm water, and the building itself will be oriented to take advantage of natural sunlight, among other things.

Officials hope the new high school will bring a more normal environment for the youth to make their eventual transition back into the real world easier.

The new environment, said Emery, will create a "wide horizon view that fosters hope and possibilities beyond their immediate circumstance."

By Alex Madison of the Daily Courier
September 30, 2016