Out With the Old, In With the New: Crowd Celebrates New HHS Annex

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Hermiston School District officials and school board members cut the ribbon to the new Hermiston High School annex on Thursday. (Photos by Michael Kane)

When students return to Hermiston High School next week, they will be greeted by a brand new $13 million annex that officially opened to the public during a ribbon-cutting ceremony Thursday evening.

About four dozen community members, including city and county officials, turned out for the event. The new 26,640-square-foot building has 13 classrooms that can hold an average class size of 24-32 students. It replaces four module buildings that the school was using to accommodate the growing student population.

Former Hermiston School Board member Ginny Holthus and Umatilla County Commissioner Dan Dorran give each other a hug Thursday during the opening of the new annex.

The new annex is home to the school’s math department, as well as computer science, STEM, CTE and other departments.

“Every Hermiston High student will pass through this building,” said School Superintendent Tricia Mooney.

The annex was part of the $82.7 million bond measure that passed in 2019 which also paid for a new Rocky Heights Elementary School, a sixth elementary school (Loma Vista Elementary), as well as property to further accommodate future student growth.

After the ribbon was cut, the public got a chance to tour the building. George Clough, who was on the Bond Oversight Committee, liked what he saw on Thursday.

“I’m impressed,” he said. “We have the best facilities in the state of Oregon.”

HHS Principal Tom Spoo said he was excited about the new annex and how it will help facilitate the high school’s effort to implement Math 360, a teaching concept that gets students out of their seats and up at a white board to work out problems.

“It’s forced engagement in a positive way,” Spoo said. “Kids can’t just sit in the back of the class and not engage.”

Spoo said the old way of having a teacher lecture at the front of the class to a room full of bored students no longer works – if it ever did.

A look inside the CAD/Engineering classroom in the new Hermiston High School annex.

“Now kids are out of their seats, up at the white board and actively taking part,” he said. “This way they get instant feedback from the teachers. When feedback is delayed, kids stop engaging. Teachers can now see what’s happening with each student. And kids are working together and helping each other. Kids teaching kids is another form of learning.”

Spoo said the high school has been slowly implementing Math 360 for the past several years.

“When it’s in action, it’s beautiful to watch,” he said.

Math can be a scary subject for many students. It can also be a bit of a mystery as to why it’s important beyond the classroom. But Spoo said more and more occupations require some level of math, including geometry, trigonometry and calculus.

“This (Math 360) makes it fun,” Spoo said. “And when kids realize they can be good at math, then they can see that they can be an architect or an engineer or an electrician. It’s crazy how much math is used in these occupations.”

Roy Barron, a Hermiston City Councilor and special education teacher at Armand Larive Middle School, called the new annex “inspirational” at Thursday’s event.

“The kids will see how much opportunity there is,” he said. “I think they’re going to love it. It’s also a reflection of our growth and progress as a city and a district. And it shows the support the community has for its kids.”

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