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December 20, 2016

End of an era for former Desert Hills Middle School campus

December 20 is the last day students walked the halls of the former Desert Hills Middle School campus and Susie Oord remembers what it was like before students ever walked them at all.

Oord was a high school freshman when her father Jim Eierdam, an assistant principal for the then-new Desert Hills, helped open the campus on 10th Place in 1977. She helped prepare the school for opening by stamping hundreds of new textbooks with the Kennewick School District logo when she visited the campus with her father.

She recalls her father singing the new school’s praises and how it would be a model for schools in the future.

“He was so proud of opening the building,” says Oord, now a special education teacher at Chinook Middle School, which has temporarily used the building since August.

Oord and other teachers recently packed up their classrooms and students emptied their lockers ahead of Chinook's move to a new building on 27th Avenue over Winter Break. Most of the former Desert Hills campus buildings will be demolished to make way for a new Dual Language elementary school scheduled to open in 2018. The gym building will be renovated into a new home for Mid-Columbia Partnership, the district’s homeschool program.

Chinook Principal Kevin Pierce on Tuesday asked students and staff to take time to think about the history of their school’s temporary home.

“I started teaching here when I was 22 years old way back in 1992 and I will certainly walk through this campus today with a high level of respect for the good work that has occurred here,” Pierce wrote on Chinook’s Facebook page.

Oord says she’s thought a lot about that history and is glad to have connections to its beginning and end. And now she’s excited to have the experience of opening a new building as her father did 39 years ago.

“I’ve never worked in a brand new school and it’s going to be amazing,” Oord says.