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Teachers, students, parents gather for ribbon-cutting and dedication of the Joyce Miller Owens Annex

SPOTLIGHT PHOTO: NICOLE THILL-PACHECO - From left to right: Hilarie Miller, George Ray Jr. and Darla Meeuwsen cheer after cutting a ceremonial red ribbon on the doorway of a new middle school wing at Sauvie Island School. The new wing was built after the Joyce Miller Ownens Foundation donated $1.2 million to pay for the building.Nothing says new classrooms quite like the smell of fresh paint, a few cheers, the ceremonial cutting of a red ribbon, and few tears of joy.

On Wednesday, Aug. 29, a crowd of students, staff, parents, teachers and project supporters gathered at Sauvie Island School to take part in a ribbon-cutting ceremony and back to school event, where visitors were able to tour the new wing of the school dedicated to the middle school grades.

The new classrooms, which have been named the Joyce Miller Owens Annex, were made possible by a $1.2 million grant from the Joyce Owens Miller Charitable Foundation.

SIS Director Darla Meeuwsen, and foundation members Hilarie Miller and George Ray junior, all spoke briefly at the dedication before cutting the red ribbon to welcome visitors to the new classrooms.

"It is the most generous thing I could ever imagine and hope for in my career, my lifetime, and we will forever change the lives of kids, our teachers, our community," Meeuwsen said. "It's rare that you get to be part of something that will change the future, but this is an everlasting opportunity and that's what the foundation has done."

Before the annex was built, students in sixth through eighth grade were housed in a series of portable classrooms packed wall to wall with desks, school supplies, lockers and other classroom essentials.

The new building offers a wide hallway with large windows and built-in lockers, clerestory windows in each classroom to let in natural light with minimal glare, and a variety of desk and chair configurations to be used in each room, depending on the subject being taught.

SPOTLIGHT PHOTO: NICOLE THILL-PACHECO - Students, staff and parents take a quick tour of the new classrooms. Each classroom has a slightly different configuration based on the classroom subject. Just before the ribbon-cutting, incoming sixth-grader Makena Rich peeked through the hallway windows with her parents, Jennifer and Ben. Makena Rich watched the classrooms being built during the school year, noting that they seemed to go up quickly. While peering through a window Wednesday night, she jumped for joy at the sight of one glass, in particular.

"Science lab," Rich said with a grin. "I'm not really used to having a separate science class."

After the dedication, with the smell of fresh paint thick on the air, students quickly filled into the new building, excitedly looking at the classrooms and lockers they will soon be able to use. Parents, staff and community members soon followed, moving from one room to the next.

Students JJ Malone, Hannah Nunn, Tabby Glasgow,Yeleni Vazquesz-Mejia and Matthew Virosteck, all incoming sixth-graders, said they were most excited about access to lockers and the large classrooms and, in general, the overall middle school experience of having new teachers who direct them through different subjects throughout the day.

Nunn added that while she was already excited for school, she was "super, super excited" about the new classrooms and the knowledge that she and her classmates would be the first ones to use the building next week.

After two years in the making, Meeuwsen said the opening of the new classrooms is an exciting step.

"It's pretty surreal," Meeuwsen said. "It's going to be so great for the kids and the teachers."

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