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M-F School District Receives $15 Million Grant

The Pendleton Record of Pendleton, Oregon

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Milton-Free water — The Milton-Free water School District has been awarded a $15 million grant by the Wayne and Gladys Valley Foundation. Dr. Rob Clark, district superintendent, was informed on Thursday, October 29 that the foundation will provide the grant contingent upon the district demonstrating the ability to raise $12.5 million dollars within one year of the agreement. The grant funds are targeted for the construction of a new Kindergarten-3rd grade "Gib Olinger Elementary School." The new school will be constructed on the old cannery site across the street from the District Office. It will be total new construction, and the cannery will be demolished. Also included in the grant is the construction of a sports complex at the current site of Grove Elementary.

The Wayne and Gladys Valley Foundation was established in 1977 and provides financial assistance for various charitable organizations. The foundation's link to the city is through Gladys Leibbrand Valley, who grew up in Milton-Free water. In 2001 the foundation awarded a $1.25 million grant to Milton-Free water to build a new library, and in 2003 the completed library was named in honor of Gladys Leibbrand Valley. The foundation's mission is to provide grant support to organizations and projects which strive for excellence and carry out their programs in a well-managed and cost-efficient manner, with clearly defined and achievable goals. In 2003 the Wayne and Gladys Valley Foundation voted to sunset with a target date of September 2018 to exhaust the foundation assets; the grant awarded to Milton-Freewater Unified School District is part of this wind-down process.

The school district grant process began late last spring when representatives of the Valley Foundation visited Milton-Freewater to review the library project. During discussions with Doug Henrichs (Library Board chairman during the library construction), Tammy Valley (daughter of Wayne and Gladys) posed the question, "Is there anything else the Valley Foundation could do for Milton-Freewater?" Discussion followed about a potential new elementary school, and Henrichs formed a committee to consider the possibilities. The proposal was fine-tuned over the last few months. Conceptual plans have been developed for all construction.

According to Superintendent Clark, this grant and the passage of a capital bond in the spring of 2016 will be extremely important to the community, as the school district has not passed a bond measure since 1982 and has not constructed a new school from the ground up since 1922. The district's buildings are some of the oldest operating facilities in Oregon. Milton-Free water Unified School District has contracted with Wenaha Group, Inc. of Pendleton, Oregon and Architects West of Coeur d'Alene, Idaho for assistance with estimates, building plans, community outreach and exploring additional financial support, including other third party funding sources and incentive/grant programs.

"Receiving this grant is somewhat surreal — it is almost unheard of for a school district to be awarded something like this," Clark said. "It can be transformational for our community and an amazing step toward improving facilities for all of our students."

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Original Publication Date: November 5, 2015

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