By Barbara Doyle
This is part five of a multi-part series on the history of Central School. Installments in this series are adapted from Barbara Doyle’s book on this topic: From Then ’til Now: Schooling in Newberg, Oregon.
Fifth and final version of Central school, c. 2003-4. Photo courtesy of Chehalem Park and Recreation District
Part Five: Central School Closes
There wasn’t space in the schoolyard for another addition. So the old wooden gymnasium was razed in 1959 and a new brick one was attached to the northwestern side of the building. Any additional work on Central School fit into the maintenance/repair category and that work was postponed as long as possible. Asbestos removal could not be ignored. A few portable classrooms were gradually placed in the playground area. Student population continued to increase, special student needs had to be recognized and accommodated, kindergarten was added. All of these increases led to increased costs which led to increased property taxes which led to a revolt by property owners – nationally and locally. In Newberg, school budgets were repeatedly defeated. A local resident said, “Run the schools until the money runs out … then close the schools.” To add to the long-running financial turmoil, there were six school district superintendents in six years.
The last of those superintendents created a Long-Range Facilities Development Task Force in September 1990. Sixteen months later the report stated that the entire school district was over-crowded and under- repaired; $34,500,000 was the cost of repairs/replacements. Central School’s deficiencies totaled $1,000,000; but that money would not solve the two main problems – the building and the site were too small. They did not meet the current standards.
Almost miraculously, Newberg residents approved a $36,400,000 school bond measure for capital projects only in May 1993. There wasn’t any money to repair Central. A 5.7 earthquake in March 1993 did not seriously damage the school building but its structural integrity was questioned. These two events, which happened within a few months, sealed Central’s fate. Antonia Crater Elementary School – just a few miles away – was built in 1994-95 on a large tract of land. The new school was designed for 500 students. Central’s doors closed for the last time in June 1995 – just three months short of sixty years of service to the community.
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