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Central School to Chehalem Cultural Center: Part Four

By Barbara Doyle

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



Part 4 - A New Building

The 1932-33 school year began just like the previous one – short on cash,  struggling financially in the Great Depression.  But the long view was more promising.

In early 1933, Franklin Delano Roosevelt was elected president and his new Democratic government promised financial help. Newberg went for a $50,000 project – a new grade school – with residents taking on $35,000 bonded indebtedness and the federal government providing a $15,000 grant. The least costly plan was to build right on the existing site. The project moved forward – slowly.

Thursday, January 24, 1935 was the last day of classes in the old school that dated back to 1889. Subsequently, classes were held in churches, the library, the high school and a reopened Harding School. The old Central School was razed in twenty-seven days. Then inclement weather in March delayed construction.

Central School, c. 1936-38. 
Courtesy of Janice Van Fleet and Lorene Nissen
The new school, one story with a basement, was built with unreinforced hollow clay tiles and exterior brick veneer. It would not burn down. The front doors opened on September 23, 1935. Students continued to follow the Platoon System while they enjoyed space for extra-curricular activities.



After World War Two [1941-1945], student population continued to grow. The national Baby Boom hit Newberg, so did the national push to consolidate the remaining ungraded country schools. Two such school districts in close-by northern Marion County were merged with Newberg School District. To discourage out-of-Newberg District students from attending, annual tuition was raised to $350.

By mid-to-late 1950s, Central School was suffering from many deficiencies. Those classrooms that were carved out of the basement were no longer allowed.  The problem was the definition of ‘basement’.  Central’s basement ceiling was more than five feet above the surrounding ground level. Therefore, it was no longer the basement; it had become the first floor and then those classrooms were acceptable.

Fifth and final version of Central school, c. 2003-4 Courtesy of Chehalem Park and Recreation District
In addition, the front entrance was removed and remodeled into classrooms,  the new entrance was hard to find, one-story wings with classrooms and bathrooms were added on the south side of the building. All of this work was accomplished during the summer of 1958.


The site was ‘maxed out’. At slightly more than three acres, it was less than half of the required land for an elementary school.  Surrounded by private residences, the site could not be enlarged. Therefore, no more additions could be added to the building.

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