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Central School to Chehalem Cultural Center: Part Three

By Barbara Doyle

This is part three of a multi-part series on the history of Central School, look for new installments in the weeks to come! This and future installments in this series are adapted from Barbara Doyle's book on this topic: From Then 'till Now: Schooling in Newberg, Oregon.



Part Three – Good Times to Hard Times

The new building had space for the principal’s office, a library and high school grades 9-11. The large basement could be used for recess time activities. The furnace wasn’t capable of heating sixteen rooms and long hallways; it was replaced. But some first and second graders still had classes in three separate rooms at the Creamery.

Newberg experienced tremendous growth in the first decade of the 20th century. Perhaps the newcomers brought new ideas – high school, library, City Hall, bridge across the Willamette River, commuter train service to Portland. The three buildings were constructed in short order. The high school opened in December 1910, thereby freeing up some space in the 1906 grade school.

Growth in the number of students continued to outpace the available space for classes. Residents finally agreed that they needed another grade school. It opened in October 1923 on Wynooski Street. To prevent confusion, this building was given a name – Harding, in honor of a former American president. Obviously, now the older school needed a name. ‘Central’ might have been chosen because the school was located in Deskins’ Central Addition – where the first version of the school was erected in 1889. School administrators continued to shuffle students between the two grade schools – to maximize use of classroom space.

As more space in the basement was converted to classrooms, a wooden gymnasium and a wooden play shed were erected in the northern area of the school yard. The gymnasium survived for about another thirty years.

Then in 1928, Portland’s Platoon System was adopted. Students were divided into two groups – the academic subjects and everything else. What one group studied in the morning, the other group did in the afternoon. That meant almost all of the facilities in the building were used almost all of the time.

Newberg School District was fiscally conservative – teacher salaries were kept low and maintenance/repair projects had been postponed. Then some rotting was discovered in Central’s basement. Seeking professional advice, the 1931 School Board hired Dr. Huffaker [Dean of the School of Education at University of Oregon]. He gave Central a ‘failing grade’. The State Fire Marshall agreed; ‘it’s a fire trap.’

This was the beginning of the Great Depression; there just wasn’t money for a new school. But the three-story, more than forty years old, all wooden school building must have fire escapes. Fire chutes, similar to a playground slide, were constructed on the third floor of the east and west wings. Classes began in the Fall 1931. Sometimes teachers were paid in warrants [not cash] and the school closed when the District could not pay the fuel bill.

A fire chute attached to the old Lafayette School on Hwy. 99 in Lafayette, Oregon. Photo by Barbara Doyle, 2014.
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