Phoenix students return to in-person learning, in brand new campus

PHOENIX, Ore. — Phoenix High School students came to class on campus for the first time this school year today, but that wasn’t the only major change.

It was also the first time most of them were able to see their new campus.

Students I spoke with say they’re excited to be back with their teachers on campus, but it was a little strange going to class with the new school layout.

It’s a small step towards normalcy for many following the tragic Almeda Fire that burned Phoenix last September.

The Phoenix-Talent School District received special permission from the state to welcome kids back in person last month.

“Everyone is now on the same page again, there’s no trying to figure it out if your house burned down, you can come to school and learn,” said high school senior, Noah Marshall.

As if returning to campus for the first time since last spring wasn’t enough, these students returned to a brand new 100-thousand square foot, $48 million campus.

“I was nervous, but excited at the same time,” said high school senior, Valeria Ascension.

“There’s a lot less people in class, but other than that, it’s not much different,” added classmate Tyler Clark.

“I’m a bit more motivated to like, get my work done [now] that I’m in class,” said Marshall.

Principal Toby Walker says staff have been in the new building since December, anxiously waiting for students to come back.

“It was exciting to see many of our students walk in, many of them for the first time today, so, walking into a new building with a new mask, and a new schedule, and new procedures and routines. There were a lot of students just standing there and taking it in for a minute,” said Walker.

He says the school is using a colored wrist band system to keep cohorts together to prevent the spread of coronavirus.

It’s also helping to prevent the 500 students on campus from getting lost.

“We group students in classes, basically, by their core content classes, (what they need for graduation) and then we grouped electives around those that students picked and tried to piece together the schedules the best that we could,” said Walker.

The principal says the larger campus also affords them more space, something he hopes will prevent future outbreaks.

The principal says 120 Phoenix High School students opted out of returning to the classroom.

The campus is still being worked on and it’ll be complete later this year.

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