Oakland High School students hone skills in metals class.  

Expansions at Oakland School District  

More space. This is the unanimous answer Oakland High School students gave when asked what they appreciate about the expanded woodshop space and metal shop space. “We have a lot of things to fit in here, like giant planks of wood,” said freshman Katelyn Jimenez over the buzz of industrial equipment that classmates were operating. 

Oakland High School Principal Rachel Swearingen shared that the investment in this expansion provides students with high technology and high skills that result in high wage jobs. She also said that the newly expanded areas addressed safety to provide improved ventilation. The new additions were paid for with High School Success (HSS) state funding. The funding is specific and enhances students’ journey towards graduation, increases high school graduation rates, establishes or expands Career and Technical Education (CTE) and prepares students for college and career pursuits. 

The next expansion goal is to replace the partially condemned Washington Gymnasium and create a multi-use facility. Grant and state funding alone won’t provide the necessary dollar amount for this new facility. This expansion would be made possible through the passing of a bond. The new structure would be built near the middle school. The current gym is more than 100 years old and more than a half-mile away. The new facility would provide expanded uses for elementary and middle school students, including choir, band, various clubs, middle school sports teams and indoor recess. Currently, the existing gym is used by community members for events. Oakland School Superintendent Jeff Clark explained that a new multi-use facility would continue to be a place for students and the community to gather. 

This district is deeply rooted in the community and committed to maintaining a tradition that focuses on students and the future. The metal shop space expanded by 975 square feet and the woodshop grew by 900 square feet. What’s taught inside these industrial workspaces is part of state-recognized CTE instruction. The curriculum connects learning to industry occupations. Data shows that 98 percent of students who take at least one CTE course graduate in four years. 

Freshman Ethan Otis is building a bench in woodshop class. “We used to have shelving in the workspace,” he said. “Now there’s more space to work. Woodshop is useful for any student interested in the trades.”  

Oakland High School students learn construction skills in woodshop class.

There’s plenty of room inside the CTE spaces for students and high-tech fabrication machinery. The HSS funding included the purchase of computerized manufacturing machines. 

Sophomore Case Sutton has been busy researching how to use a new laser engraver. He mentioned that he’s transferring experience from working with other tools to figure out the new system. “It should only take me a couple of weeks to figure this out before I can help teach other kids how to use it,” he said. “I’ve enjoyed my classes here so much, I’ve stuck with them,” Case said. He said he likes the freedom to make different things with a purpose.  

Funding from private donations and local grants was used to purchase items such as welding equipment and construction tools. Community member Jenny Gibbs is credited for writing grants to secure this funding. “She has helped us so much,” said Angela Chenoweth, a teacher at Oakland High School.  

Another high school teacher, Kirk Fairchild said, “We’re so thankful for the community that we have in Douglas County.”  

Freshman Gracie Wehe said that new welding equipment is reliable. “They work amazing, and it’s easy to learn now,” she said.  

Chenoweth understands the importance of well-equipped learning spaces. “When you have enough tools that work, kids work,” she said. 

Senior Brayden Webb set up the electrical components for the new welding equipment and grew his skillset. “Mr. Fairchild saw something in me,” he said, “that I didn’t see in myself.”  

Fairchild mentioned that he likes seeing where students start and where they end. “It’s exciting to say to a student, ‘You’re ready for the next step,’” he said.  

Chenoweth explained that the high school’s CTE instruction begins with design, followed by construction and business practices such as pricing and marketing projects. “We’re really proud of the students,” she said. Aside from learning technical skills, students also are learning the importance of showing up and completing tasks, she added.  

Local businesses and organizations often hire students to produce projects. Plus, the community often donates supplies for projects. The money earned goes back into the program, which helps sustain it. For some projects, students earn community service hours. Items such as planter boxes will be sold at the FFA plant sale this spring. 

CTE classes at the high school are tied to FFA, a student leadership organization where learning extends beyond school walls. Students develop and display their skills, refine public speaking abilities and engage in networking opportunities. Students studying agriculture have been busy in the school’s greenhouse tending to hundreds of potted hanging plants, which will also be sold at the FFA plant sale.   

Superintendent Clark said, “We are doing everything we can to improve lives for kids, giving them well-rounded educational opportunities with as much variety as possible.” 

Fifth-grade students recently returned from a two-night outdoor school trip to Camp Hancock in eastern Oregon in the John Day Fossil Beds National Monument. Lincoln Middle School Principal, Conor Liguore said this was a big opportunity for students to have new experiences in a high desert landscape. He said, “We appreciate funding from Oregon State University, which helped make this trip possible.”   

Change is happening at the elementary school as well. Elementary and Secondary School Emergency Relief (ESSER) funds are being used to build a new district office that should be completed this spring. Currently, the district office is in an elementary classroom. Relocating the district office will open a classroom for students. “This is another example of us using non-general fund dollars to the best of our abilities to better the learning experience for all students,” Clark said. The school district is committed to planning for the community’s future.   

The May 2024 ballot will include the proposed $4.5 million bond to replace the partially condemned Washington Gym with a flexible facility. If passed, a state grant will match the funding. 

Learn more about Oakland School District at www.oakland.k12.or.us