Big crowd gawks at new Oak Harbor High School digs

Tre Camacho tests a science experiment in the chemistry lab, which involved bubbles and dry ice last Wednesday. - Liz Burlingame/Whidbey News-Times
Tre Camacho tests a science experiment in the chemistry lab, which involved bubbles and dry ice last Wednesday.
— image credit: Liz Burlingame/Whidbey News-Times

More than three decades after Oak Harbor High School opened its doors, the community celebrated the new, 21st Century campus Jan. 13.

“My wife recognizes the auto shop, but beyond that, she doesn’t recognize anything,” visitor Tim Miller said.

The three-year modernization of the high school is not yet complete, but the public had an inside view of several new and renovated buildings.

That night, over 1,500 people walked through the doors of the two-story Student Union Building, which opened last month. It houses a cafeteria, classrooms and an auditorium.

Event organizer Joe Hunt said the open house was a “thank you” to the community for approving funds for the almost $75 million project in 2006. It was also a chance for people to see how taxpayer dollars were spent.

Visitor Brigette McLaurin said she was pleased with the campus enhancements, and liked the “college feel.” Her oldest son is a junior at the high school, and the project will be fully finished when her sixth-grade daughter is ready to attend.

“It’s a better atmosphere and the kids will have an idea of what college is like,” McLaurin said. “The transition won’t be as scary.”

In the cafeteria, food service manager Ken Harrison helped serve up free food samples.

McLaurin, who graduated from the high school in 1990, said the food has come a long way from the burritos and barbecue snacks she remembers.

“They have gourmet now,” she said.

She added that the high school appeared more organized, spacious and fresh than it was 20 years ago.

Most of the high school was open for self-guided tours, and community members moved through the Student Union Building, B-wing and Career and Technical Building.

Chemistry labs offered demonstrations for children and people could test the 3-D printers in the engineering classroom. Miller’s son Bradley recorded a message in the school’s Wildcat TV studio.

“I can’t imagine any other school around as advanced as this,” Miller said.

The evening continued with a choir and band concert in the new auditorium and a formal dedication.

Visitor Louann Rennes said she’s satisfied with how the project money was spent so far, and is looking forward to what’s to come. Rennes son will begin high school this September.

“It’s a total transformation,” she said. “I’m just happy my kids will get to inherit a decent school.”

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