The Hermiston Junior Academy is gearing up for a couple of upcoming activities — including an open house and an all-day homecoming event.

Now serving preschool through eighth grade students, the school celebrated 75 years of continuous operation in 2017. Fully accredited and offering small teacher-to-student ratios, the school — which is affiliated with the Seventh-day Adventist Church — presents a Bible-based and Christ-centered curriculum.

Hosted by the Hermiston Chamber of Commerce, the after hours networking open house is Thursday. The free event runs from 5-6 p.m. at Hermiston Junior Academy, 1300 N.W. Academy Lane — located off Northwest 11th Street. In addition to refreshments and door prizes, the academy’s orchestra and hand bell choir will perform.

The school extends a special invitation to prospective students and their families. Any new student who attends the event and later enrolls will receive a reduced fee for the 2019-20 school year.

Principal Jordan Lindsay said small class sizes — the largest class has 14 students — enhances the learning process. In addition, he said it helps in building a sense of community.

“We’ve been able to create a family atmosphere. The kids get along well and we have a very low bullying rate,” Lindsay said. “We have created sort of a safe haven for kids.”

Paula Oltman, school board chairperson and a volunteer strings teacher, agreed, saying the smaller atmosphere provides more one-on-one instruction. Also, she said the school is able to coordinate additional activities that are both educational and memorable.

Lindsay said outdoor education adventures have included such destinations as the Oregon/Washington coast to learn about marine life and central Oregon to study geology. Local field trips include visiting museums, places of business and Walla Walla University, which also is affiliated with the Seventh-day Adventist Church.

Also, community service is incorporated into the learning experience. Each student participates at least monthly in giving back, Oltman said. That can include community cleanup efforts, helping someone with gardening, volunteering at Agape House, visiting assisted living facilities and performing concerts.

“We talk about our music being a ministry to serve others,” Oltman said. “It’s more than something we learn to do, we consider it something we can do to be a blessing to others.”

Chimes, hand bells and a strings program with an orchestra are all available. Oltman estimates that 75 percent of the students are involved with the music program.

The academy’s Homecoming event is Saturday, May 4 from 9:30 a.m. to 9:30 p.m. It includes panel discussions, a Bible study, church service and two meals. In addition, it features school tours, a musical performance and the school’s business meeting. Oltman invites all past students, teachers and board members to attend.

“We’re looking forward to taking a roll call to find out which students are there and from what decades,” Oltman said. “We’re hoping for a grand day.”

The school first operated in 1929 in the upper portion of the old RoeMark’s building on Main Street. After closing during the worst years of the Great Depression, it later re-opened in 1942 in the church’s basement on Fourth Street and Ridgeway Avenue.

With continued growth, the school constructed a new facility on Ninth Street and West Division Avenue — opening prior to Thanksgiving in 1960, adding another classroom in 1962.

Bursting at the seams by the mid-70s, the school obtained land off of Northwest 11th Street — the site of its current campus. In addition to administrative space, classrooms and a gymnasium, the sprawling 13-acre campus includes a playground and sports fields.

The are 46 current students. Its peak enrollment was in 1979-80 with 92 students. For more information, call 541-567-8523 or visit www.hjra.org.

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