“Amazing.” “Beautiful.” “Exciting.” “Impressive.”

Months of planning and millions of dollars came to a head Saturday as the Hermiston School District celebrated the grand opening of the new Armand Larive Middle School facility.

The school is the third to be completed  as part of a $69.9 million construction bond. West Park and Sunset elementary schools already opened.

Wade Smith, interim superintendent, described the building as “functional,” referencing meetings with school employees, from teachers to custodians, to determine how to make the facility efficient for those who spend the most time in it.

“This building is not only beautiful, but it works,” Smith said. “A lot of care went into the design of this building. I would say it is the flagship middle school in the state of Oregon.”

More than 200 people visited the building Saturday, from current and former district officials to a dozen members of the Larive family. They toured the building, from the entrance to the roof, with a solar system Principal Tom Spoo said can power the entire facility if the air conditioner is not running.

Spoo, the former Hermiston High School assistant principal, begins his first day of school as principal on new building’s first day of school..

“I’m an extremely blessed person to have the opportunity to start a new job as principal and to start in a beautiful new building,” he said Saturday. “It’s just unreal what this community did. I’m excited. I can’t wait for school to start.”

For Jon Mishra, the former principal, the opening was bittersweet. Although Mishra has moved on to a position in the district office, he served as ALMS principal during most of the building’s construction and toured the facility multiple times a month.

“It’s like having a kid,” he said. “I saw the building grow up from being a flat piece of ground to what it is now. It’s just amazing to see the blueprints come to life. This building is beautiful. It’s amazing.”

The school replaces the former Armand Larive Middle School — built as Union High School 75 years ago — which was demolished this summer. Former school board member Dave Drotzmann described his first impressions of the former campus as resembling a “minimum security prison.”

“For me, that was my first impression of Armand Larive,” he said. “What a difference. This facility is amazing.”

  

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