Oakville School District hosts grand opening ceremony

Dozens come to see unveiling of new elementary school and remodeled high school

From the newly waxed floors and expanded classrooms of the Oakville Elementary School to the remodeled cafeteria, updated technology and fresh modern look of the Oakville High School, it’s difficult for newcomers to imagine the Oakville School District as it was six years ago.

“At that point, our enrollment was below 220 students and declining,” said Rich Staley, the Oakville School District superintendent. “We didn’t have a preschool at that time, our buildings were ugly and falling apart and our elementary students were literally eating lunch with a bucket sitting right next to them catching the water coming through the ceiling.”

Staley said these problems among countless others proved the school district needed to flip the script to have a successful environment for children to learn and grow. He said during that time, the school district looked to accomplish two main goals. Number one was to inspire hope for the students, families and community of Oakville. Number two was to personalize the student experience so students and families have the pride and confidence to succeed in a new and changing world.

A major part of achieving those goals was to tear down the outdated elementary school building and build a brand new one from the ground up, courtesy of a $5.6 million bond project approved by Oakville voters in February 2020, as well as $9 million from Washington’s School Construction Assistance Program (SCAP).

After nearly a year of construction, the new elementary school was formally opened with a ribbon-cutting ceremony on Wednesday, Nov. 9.

“It’s a new vision that we get to have, and the goal was to give (the students) hope and give the community a new idea of possibilities for our kids,” Staley said after the ribbon cutting. “It’s really an amazing thing that this community saw enough to invest in what’s happening here and we’re really honored by that. We just hope that it speaks to what they want for the next generation of Oakville kids.”

Dozens of parents, students and politicians such as Legislative District 19 Republicans Jim Walsh (Position 1) and Joel McEntire (Position 2) toured the new building, which houses four general education classrooms, one special education classroom, a weight room for the high school’s use, an office and a multipurpose-cafeteria space.

Although the construction of the elementary school was perhaps the most important part of revitalizing the Oakville School District, it’s only a piece of the full puzzle.

The bond project included a total renovation of the high school, including updating the technology and learning spaces, renovating the bathrooms, modifying the music room to increase acoustics and make it easier for students to get instruments in and out, adding a new classroom near the kitchen, updating the office area, and installing new ceilings, floors, furniture and doors in all classrooms. According to Staley, both school projects can allow for enrollment to reach a maximum of 500 students district-wide.

Other projects included upgrading the playground, paving the parking lots, remodeling all bathrooms on campus, installing a campus-wide public announcement system and putting in a new readerboard by the main road.

Although Staley said he was never worried the COVID-19 pandemic would hinder the chance to improve the school district, he said some projects are still in the waiting period to be completed due to supply chain issues.

“Many people will notice that the elementary school doesn’t have any clocks. We’re on backorder for those until March,” Staley said. “We put some projects on hold because material started getting more expensive during the pandemic. Luckily, we were able to afford all the main aspects of the project we were looking to get.”

While the bond projects have helped the school district extensively, Staley also applauded other school improvements achieved during his tenure as the superintendent such as the creation of a preschool program and an elementary school library via grants from the Grays Harbor Community Foundation and a local Dollar General, respectively.

“Tonight is a night of celebration and accomplishment of a journey our district has been going on for at least the last six years. And what a journey it has been,” Staley said.