The Klamath County School District's newest building opened to Stearns Elementary students this school year, offering pupils a roomier and more modern place to learn.

The eight-classroom, 11,000-square-foot stand-alone addition near the Stearns Elementary playground is the latest and largest new classroom building the district has constructed in a years-long effort to replace decades-old modular classroom units throughout the county, information provided by the district showed.

Fifth- and sixth-graders occupy half of the new classrooms, while the other four are home to the district's special programs like communications and alternative education.  

“This gives us more space, and provides a sense of community and a cooperative learning environment for our older students,” said Beth Clark, principal of Stearns Elementary School.

The new classroom building replaces three older modular classroom units. Dennis Zullo, maintenance and project supervisor for the district, said the modular units were "outdated" and "unsafe environments" that he estimated were from the early 70s. 

The more spacious new classrooms offer more modern finishes and classroom technologies in a more energy efficient building, Zullo said. Plus, the modular units were demolished and the areas where they sat have already grassed over, offering more usable outdoor space for the school to use. 

Some of the work on the building was done by outside contractors, Zullo said, but much of it was done by an in-house, 12-member crew that has a wide variety of construction expertise. 

Using the district's crew "saves the taxpayer money," Zullo said of the nearly $2 million project that came in under budget. The district likely saved half a million dollars on the Stearns addition by using their own crew. 

Zullo said he's proud of "the craftsmanship that they perform on all these buildings. And that's everything from drywall, the structure, electrical, plumbing, concrete, all that."

The Stearns classroom addition in the third such project the district has completed in recent years. In September 2018, the district opened a six-classroom addition at Peterson Elementary and a four-classroom addition at Henley Middle School was completed a year later. 

The next project is slated to begin in the coming weeks, as crews will soon break ground on a six-classroom addition at Shasta Elementary that is expected to be open by fall 2022.