Students celebrate at a groundbreaking ceremony for construction at Waldo Middle School on Aug. 15, 2019 (Courtesy/Salem-Keizer School District)

When Waldo Middle School was built in 1957, the school cafeteria was designed to hold 227 students.

Today, that population has ballooned to more than 1,000, creating daily challenges like shuffling students in and out of the lunch room reach day, said Principal Tricia Nelson.

Last week marked the start of a campus renovation that will expand the Waldo cafeteria and add new classrooms to replace portables on the west side of the building.

“Our dreaming planning and preparing is about to take off,” Nelson said at a groundbreaking event last week.

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Waldo Middle School, built in 1957. (Rachel Alexander/Salem Reporter)

Waldo is the fifth Salem-Keizer school to begin renovations this year after district voters approved a $620 million school construction package in the spring of 2018.

With school starting in a little over two weeks, construction trailers are parked at North Salem and McNary high schools and Judson Middle School. Work at Gubser Elementary School, which began in the spring, is nearly complete.

District administrators, Waldo teachers and students and community leaders spoke about the impact of the project during the Aug. 15 ceremony held outside the school.

Adriana Miranda, a Waldo graduate and Salem-Keizer parent who now serves on the district’s budget committee, said the construction would bring needed resources to the schools that need them the most.

“I know first-hand the inequalities that exist in our schools,” she said in Spanish. “This is why we need these investments in our schools now.”

Waldo will get four new general classrooms and four science labs to replace the six classrooms now in portables. The school will also have a new fitness classroom to allow better training for sports teams and more options for PE.

Portable classrooms at Waldo Middle School will be replaced with newly constructed classrooms over the next year. (Rachel Alexander/Salem Reporter)

With the additional lab space, Waldo 7th graders will get a full year of science, rather than a single semester.

The larger cafeteria and commons means the school will only have two lunch periods, rather than three, Nelson said.

The total cost of the renovations is $14.3 million. Construction will finish next August.

Plans for renovations at Waldo Middle School (Courtesy/Salem-Keizer School District)

Reporter Rachel Alexander: [email protected] or 503-575-1241.