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WLHS is a construction-free zone

After nearly three years of work, West Linn High School is overflowing with new facilities and a state-of-the-art theater
by: Jim Hart, Rob Holstrom, West Linn High School assistant principal and athletic director, stands in front of the theater box office inside the school’s newly completed fine arts building, which will have a grand opening in the fall.

The long wait is over.

All of the long, intolerable days are in the past - the days that students and staff at West Linn High School were forced to put up with noise, dust, temporary facilities, limited access, reduced parking and unfulfilled anticipation.

The approximately $21 million reconstruction is complete, and school staffers are breathing a sigh of relief as well as a gasp of excitement at the state-of-the-art facilities that have been added to a school, which has undergone nearly complete reconstruction in the past six years.

'We've had to be very flexible,' said Rob Holstrom, assistant principal/athletic director in charge of facilities, 'and our teachers and students have been great.'

Holstrom is among many who are happy about the final days of construction workers on campus.

'I'm looking forward to being able to operate with everything fully functional,' he said. 'We've been in temporary status for 2½ years.'

That temporary status had a major impact on some of the school's programs, Holstrom said, putting several departments 'under the gun.'

'The drama department has not had a facility for more than two years,' he said. 'The band and choir was isolated in an area that was undergoing a lot of changes. And last September we didn't have a home volleyball match because we didn't have a gym. Our PE classes couldn't be in the main gym because the floor didn't get done, and the new auxiliary gym also didn't get done on time.'

The changeover from a 1920s-era facility began about three years ago when artificial turf was placed as a carpet on the stadium field, and ended recently when landscaping was completed around the new fine arts building, entrance road, commons, kitchen and physical education wing.

In the process of updating the school from its historic facility to a 21st century icon, much has been updated or reconstructed from the ground up.

Among the new facilities is a fine arts building, with 600-seat theater that boasts professional-theater technology, state-of-the-art acoustics, an orchestra pit and associated rooms for dressing and makeup as well as scene, costume and set preparation and storage. The theater also has a fly above its stage, which is a very high ceiling where sets are hoisted and lowered when needed.

Soon, there will be 16 hours of training for the people who will be in control of all of that technology.

Also in the fine arts building are classrooms for instrumental and vocal music, practice rooms and a 100-seat black box theater, where actors can be even more creative in dramatic productions.

The new kitchen, adjacent to the two well-lighted commons areas, supports four venues where food is served at WLHS.

The school's programs in physical education, health and wellness got a huge boost with the addition of a girls' locker room and three team locker rooms, training room, auxiliary gymnasium, dance room, weight room, laundry room, artificial turf on the stadium and baseball fields and new surfaces on four tennis courts.

Before the first set is prepared for the theater or the first performance is advertised, a date is being anticipated in late August or early September for a dedication of the building by the district's school board. And then, probably in late September or early October, Holstrom said, a public open house and dedication will be planned so local residents can see firsthand the results of the major reconstruction.

The first public performances in the theater include choir, band and orchestra concerts in October and a musical theater production in November.

About seven weeks from now, Holstrom admits, there'll be a lot of smiles around the high school campus.

'As crazy as it has been for the past two years,' Holstrom said, 'it's going to be really nice to open in the fall with everybody going to the spaces that were made for them.'