Arlington’s new Haller Middle School will ease crowding

ARLINGTON – It has nearly become a rite of fall in the Arlington School District.

For the fourth September in four years, Arlington will open a new school.

Haller Middle School will usher in more than 600 students on Wednesday, capping a furious six-year stretch of new school construction fueled by a $54 million bond measure passed by voters in 2000.

The district used the money voters approved to snag $27.6 million more toward school construction through state matching money.

For cost and community psyche, Superintendent Linda Byrnes is glad voters approved the bond measure when they did.

“In the last few years the market has really changed,” Byrnes said.

Construction costs have been on the rise. Marysville recently passed a $120 million bond measure that includes a new $79 million high school.

Haller was built for $15.4 million, and almost all of the money came from state matching money. A small part of that cost, about $560,000, came from fees developers pay to offset the growth-related effects new homes have on schools.

The bond directly paid for the $44 million Arlington High School and the $10 million Pioneer Elementary School. State matching funds paid for the $12.2 million Presidents Elementary School.

Haller was built on the former Arlington High School site and includes the old gym and music classrooms.

With Haller, Arlington is now able to convert from an overcrowded middle school of seventh- and eighth-graders to two campuses of sixth through eighth grades. The change has been a long-term goal for the district.

Even so, both schools will keep sixth-graders somewhat separated from the older grades. At Haller, sixth-graders will have classes on the second story.

Teachers Jim Kjargaard, Howard Knoepfle and Fred Johnson were part of the original faculty that opened Post Middle School in 1981, and now they are members of the first staff at Haller.

The new campus will open up space at both middle schools, for which Kjargaard is thankful.

Post Middle School was so full there wasn’t room to offer science year round.

“There just wasn’t the space at Post,” said Kjargaard, a science teacher. “There were parts we just didn’t cover. It will be nice to get to cover all the areas.”

Eric DeJong, Haller’s new principal, is making the move from the same post at Post.

He, too, likes the idea of extra learning space and opportunities at both schools.

“I can remember a lot of days when I was hoping we would have two middle schools,” he said.

Byrnes, the superintendent, said she thinks the voter investment has helped Arlington in many ways.

“It certainly has changed the way the community looks at itself to have the schools reflect how they feel about the kids,” she said.

Reporter Eric Stevick: 425-339-3446 or stevick@heraldnet.com.

What’s in a name

Haller Middle School is scheduled to open Wednesday on the same grounds as the old Arlington High School.

Haller, pronounced “Hal-er,” is a reference to Haller City, a bygone town along the Stillaguamish River from the era of oxen teams and canoes.

Haller City, named for an early real estate speculator, Maurice Haller, was a rival to Arlington in the late 1800s. It started its own school district, which eventually was incorporated into what is now the Arlington School District.

The district chose the Haller name from 62 community suggestions, including Amelia Earhart Middle School, Arlington Middle School, Johnny Cash Junior High, Mahatma Gandhi Middle School, Eleanor Roosevelt Middle School and Ralph Nader Middle School.

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