Vale School Board member Dave Wenger, Vale Middle School Principal Jeri Schaffeld, district superintendent Alisha McBride and Chamber of Commerce president Jessica Kulm cut the ribbon in front of the new middle school Aug. 12. (The Enterprise/Isabella Garcia)

Vale had a moment of tremendous pride last week with the formal opening of Vale Middle School. The school is more than a building. It symbolizes the faith of the community in itself and the vision of those who see the possible and get after it. What a great day to be a Viking!

Vale hasn’t opened a new school building since 1955. Consider that. No new school in more than half a century. The community certainly has gotten its money’s worth out of the existing schools.

The time clearly had come for that to change. School officials and community activists recognized the need. And when the state dangled $4 million in front of Vale, little more motivation was needed. The talking started turning to action in 2015, and by the fall of 2016, school and community leaders took their case to the public.

Asking people to tax themselves is never an easy task. That’s especially true in Vale and Malheur County, where the economy isn’t strong. Yet the case was made – that it was time for Vale to reach into its wallets to ensure local kids had a decent place to learn. Logan Hamilton, the grocery business owner and ardent Viking, led the campaign with determination, helped by many.

Voters responded. The results weren’t even close – 1,403 yes, 841 no. 

Then came the work of designing and siting the school. Many opinions were shared, differing ideas considered, and consensus forged for what the new Vale Middle School should be. The process was disrupted by the departure of one district superintendent and the short tenure of the replacement. The Vale School Board wisely tapped Alisha McBride to fill the job, and she has been a steadying, guiding hand as the school work went ahead.

But Hamilton and McBride weren’t out on point by themselves. A small army of volunteers, including board members and just average citizens interested in schools, pitched in. We bet you recognize many of the names from the banner hanging at the new school last week thanking them. 

On that list in no special order in addition to Hamilton and McBride: Adam Tolman, Christine Phillips, Don Hodge, Jeff Mendiola, John Braese, Mary Jo Sharp, Quinn Mulvany, Zach Knapp, Corey Maag, Don Wayne, Jeri Schaffeld, Larry Tuttle, Mary Martindale, Randy Seals, Todd Gregory, Darlene McConnell, Jason Johnson, Jim Howard, Michale McGourty, Sam Blackburn, Todd Shaffer, Bill Hirsh, Dave Wenger, Jeff Burkhardt, Jim Schaffeld, Scott Gressley, Topper Schlupe, Malheur Drug, Munk Family Dental, Bentz Insurance, and Simplot.

When the doors opened last week, more than 250 people wandered the hallways, checking out the awesome gymnasium, the library, the classrooms and more. There were smiles, oohs and aahs from one end of the school to the other.

And let’s not forget the eighth graders who served as greeters and hosts and hostesses for the evening. These members of the student leadership team were poised, gracious and polite. They added an extra sparkle to the open house, and each one will no doubt work hard to make the community proud of the first student body in the new school.

This was a great moment in Vale’s history. All those who had a hand in bringing this project home deserve the town’s appreciation and thanks. – LZ

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