Voter approved school bond brings state-of-the art performing arts spaces to Gresham High School

The 2016 Gresham-Barlow School Bond included funding for brand new performing arts spaces at Gresham High School. Construction has been completed on a new choir room, band room, and black box theater as part of the Phase 1 renovation, and students enjoyed these classrooms throughout the 2019-2020 school year.

“I think these spaces represent a huge investment in the community, in our schools, and in our students,” said Gresham High School Assistant Principal Jason Bhear. “We’re installing cutting -edge technology in a cutting-edge space that will only lead to improved instruction and education for kids.It’s the same as the new auto shop and the Career and Technical Education (CTE) classrooms that will come on board in phase 2 next September. These huge investments from the bond will provide students with real-life experience in future career fields.”

Classes were taught in the new black box theater this spring. GHS drama teacher Sara Dempsey taught six classes in the new room. It’s the first time that she’s had her own classroom – she previously taught drama classes in the auditorium.

“It was inconvenient, to say the least,” Dempsey said. “We were always sharing our classroom with the entire school, so sometimes I was teaching my drama class out in the hall, or trying to find another space. It’s really nice to finally have our own classroom.”

Dempsey says the black box theater classroom was a hit with students. “We can really create magic in the new black box theater; it’s a really creative, alternative space,” said Dempsey.

The new “learning tower” that opened to students this September includes 53 new classrooms and 111,000 square feet of new school space. Construction at Gresham High is scheduled to continue through the end of 2020, with a new gymnasium, auto shop, media center, and weight room planned.

These improvements were funded by the 2016 Gresham-Barlow School Bond, approved by the community four years ago. There are similar improvements underway to renovate Barlow High School, and this past fall the district also opened brand new schools at North Gresham Elementary and East Gresham Elementary. 

“The students are far more engaged and excited, and they are able to expand their learning,” says Dempsey. “I’m able to more strongly connect with students. We are able to interact in a theatrical space instead of the hallway.” 

GHS staff are eager to schedule an inaugural performance in the new space when schools reopen. 

“Gresham High School staff have seen a marked increase in student morale and school pride because of all of the new spaces,” said Assistant Principal Bhear. “You can feel it, it’s palpable. Students are appreciative, staff feel appreciated, and we’re all deeply thankful for the investment that the community has placed into Gresham High School.”