Seventh- and eighth-graders crowded into the hallways of the new Jefferson Middle School on Wednesday morning to find their pristine purple lockers, which no other students had used before.

Opening the lockers proved tricky for many, however.

“I can’t get this,” sighed eighth-grader Ty Garceau, as he fiddled with the combination lock. On the fourth try, he succeeded.

“It’s right-left-right,” Garceau reminded fellow eighth-grader Gabriel Hurley, who also was struggling.

Though the new Jefferson Middle School building looks sparkling, a few minor glitches remain, said Principal Scott Jantzi.

For example, electronic bells to remind students to head to class didn’t sound on Wednesday morning, the first day for all students at the facility. (Sixth-graders eased back into the school year on Tuesday.)

“All in all, things are going great,” Jantzi added.

Everything about the new middle school project — as well as a new wing for Jefferson Elementary School and seismic upgrades for facilities and more — was on time and on budget, according to school officials.

But it will still take some time to get all the kinks ironed out and get everyone used to the new building. And its lockers.

Jantzi said he helped a few dozen students open their lockers for the first time on Wednesday morning.

Last year, at the old Jefferson Middle School building, the lockers were secured with combination padlocks. At the new building, the locks are embedded in the locker doors and have a different feel, Jantzi explained.

Hurley had other issues with the lockers. “They give tall people short lockers and short people tall lockers. I’m one of those short people,” he said.

Besides the lockers, Hurley was a fan of the new facility, and he was looking forward to PE class. “It’s my favorite thing about school,” he said.

“The new gym is really big,” said Alondra Garcia, a seventh-grader who also is a big fan of PE class.

By 8 a.m., she had already decorated her locker with pictures of family. “It’s just a start,” she said.

The new 47,000-square-foot Jefferson Middle School, constructed next to Jefferson High School, was part of a $14.4 million bond measure that passed in May 2017. The state matched $4 million to the pot.

James Lutz, project senior superintendent for Gerding Builders, described the building as modern but not flashy.

One of the more important upgrades at the facility is improved security, which Jantzi said he was looking forward to. Sixth graders also will have their own wing, a design meant to help make them more comfortable as they level up.

The old Jefferson Middle School building, constructed in 1952, was essentially crumbling and falling apart. During rainstorms in recent year, garbage cans were placed out in hallways and some classrooms to catch drips.

The old facility is scheduled to be demolished within the next year, though the gym and cafeteria will be kept and could be used as a community recreation center.

Kyle Odegard tried twice, without success, to help open up Gabriel Hurley's locker. He can be contacted at 541-812-6077 or kyle.odegard@lee.net.

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