In the community

New school debuts in Nyssa

Workers put the finishing touches on brickwork at the new Nyssa Middle School. The new facility will open for students next week. (The Enterprise/Kristine de Leon)

NYSSA – On Monday, 280 Nyssa Middle School students will walk into an entirely different teaching and learning environment than what they had last spring.

They will see the results of months of construction.

The middle school will debut a new gymnasium, 17 new classrooms, an art room and media center, according to construction updates published on the school’s website. The updates are joint reports by the school district, Beniton Construction and Design West Architects.

“We will have a facility big enough so that students won’t have to go all over the place to go to classes,” said Angela Trujillo, secretary at Nyssa Middle School. 

Previously, middle schoolers would have to go to the high school for classes or physical education. “Now, we have the space and can keep the kids contained in the middle school.”

 new technologies and more resources.

“All classrooms will have Promethean smartboards and Chromebooks, “said Trujillo. “Each of those will be available to all students.”

The new middle school will also offer a dual language program, in which courses will be “taught in both English and Spanish in the classrooms,” said Trujillo. In addition, she said the school will have dedicated special education classrooms that will serve middle school and high school students.

“We’re on schedule,” said Jana Iverson, superintendent for the Nyssa School District. “The students will be in the building when we start school again.”

Construction of the new middle school began in May 2017. 

The original structures that made up Nyssa Middle School since the 1960s have been reduced to rubble, minus the section known as the Commons area. 

“It was kept because we could get more space by keeping it than just building a new area,” Iverson said.

The remodeled Commons is the “only one portion [that] won’t be completed,” according to Iverson, who estimates that it “won’t be finished until two months after school starts.” 

“We had to wait until school was out to build [the new Commons],” said Lindsay Malinowski, the school district’s business finance manager. 

Demolition of the old middle school began after Memorial Day when the new school structures were nearing completion. Hence, only a few months have gone into the renovation and expansion of the Commons.

The former Commons area was not only used for dining, but also for physical education and sports. But with the middle school’s new gymnasium, the new Commons will function as a dining area. It will include a cafeteria with a kitchen, according to Malinowski.

“We hope it’s ready by October,” said Malinowski. 

In the meantime, the school district ordered picnic tables for students to eat outside. The middle school’s lunch program will bring meals cooked at Nyssa High School.

Nyssa’s former middle school building couldn’t fit in all of its middle school students. One-third of the students were taught in a former primary school constructed in 1956, and the rest were taught in 10 temporary modular classrooms, which had no restrooms.  

“We were just wanting to build a new building,” said Malinowski. “The whole project was quoted at the beginning at $12 million.”

In 2016, the district won a $4 million grant from the state Education Department.

That was contingent on the district getting voter approval of a bond to cover the remaining costs.

Nyssa voters approved a $7.5 million bond in May 2016. 

“It worked out with perfect timing, too,” said Malinowski.

 Since the bond for an elementary school constructed in 1995 was paid off in 2015, the tax rate to pay off the new bond wasn’t entirely new to taxpayers.

The district estimated construction costs at $11.5 million but the lowest bid was $1.5 million higher than that. To make up the difference, the district relied on its reserves.

“We have our own capital improvement fund within the school district, which was money that the district had saved,” Malinowski said. “So whatever difference is between the bid and the money from the grant and the bond, we were able to cover.”

Malinowski also pointed out that while voters approved the school district’s $7.5 million bond, the district only borrowed $7 million. She said the district saved because of its high credit rating. So far, the district has stayed within the original budget, according to Iverson. 

This was confirmed by Malinowski. She explained that construction is “not completely done,” so the district doesn’t know “the final dollar amount.”