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School will forego '09 Homecoming

Local elected officials and invited guests got a look at East Ridge High School Aug. 13 with tours led by Principal Aaron Harper and Assistant Principal Matt Kraft.

The school, located on Pioneer Drive and Bailey Road in Woodbury, opens Sept. 4 along with other District 833 schools, but East Ridge will be unique in that the last time a high school was built was 34 years ago when Woodbury High School opened in 1975. Park High School opened in 1965.

It will also open without 12th-graders because the school board is allowing this year's seniors to graduate with classmates.

Without seniors there will not be a traditional homecoming this fall. Instead, the last week of September will be Spirit Week, Kraft said, as he led his tour group into the gymnasium. It has been nicknamed "The Perch," because the school's mascot is raptors. Raptors is also spelled out in the main seating area for basketball games.

When the referendum to build the school was passed, then-superintendent Tom Nelson said he wanted Park and Woodbury to have the same facilities as East Ridge.

Construction projects at Woodbury and Park have added arena-type classrooms, storage space and meeting areas for use by the schools and the public.

Some features of East Ridge are different from the older schools and some are the same.

Instead of activity centers with separate gyms, the spaces have been combined at East Ridge with six basketball courts and a walking track similar to the ones at Park and Woodbury's activity centers.

Textbooks have been redistributed among the three schools. East Ridge students will have used books.

The media centers are similar, but at East Ridge, there is a wall of windows to take advantage of natural light, something the other schools do not have.

There are similar banks of windows throughout the school, including the cafeteria, to let in natural light for esthetics and energy savings, Kraft said.

Unlike the straight hallways of Park and Woodbury, classrooms are grouped so that the ninth grade, formerly in junior high schools, will have a separate area of classrooms with open spaces, computers, tables and seating for learning outside of classrooms. There is also office space for teachers.

While more "smart boards," which are used with computers, are being added each year at Park and Woodbury, all East Ridge classrooms have smart boards. There is also one in the media center.

Gradually putting in smart boards would have wasted a lot of nearly new conventional white boards, according to Mike Vogel, assistant to the superintendent for operations.

East Ridge was built with wireless communication, but students with personal laptop computers will not have access to district information systems. They will be routed to the Internet outside of the district's system for security and virus prevention, according to Al Lundquist, district technology coordinator.

Woodbury High School already has wireless Internet, and Park High School is getting it this fall.

While the other two schools have had upgrades in auditoriums, the one at East Ridge is larger and has features not found in the other two including sets of sound baffles that can be lowered or raised to enhance the sounds for various uses such as vocal music or plays.

It also has a removable thrust stage and an orchestra pit.

"It's just a concrete box with a lot of neat stuff in it," said architect Paul Youngquist.

Judy Spooner
Judy Spooner is the longest-serving staff writer at the South Washington County Bulletin. Spooner, who covers education and features in addition to writing a weekly column, has been with the newspaper for over 30 years.
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