Science teacher Lori Hunt demonstrates different classroom configurations in the new addition at McKay High School on Friday, Oct. 8, 2021. (Amanda Loman/Salem Reporter)

Lori Hunt is very excited about tables.

The McKay High School science teacher said the configuration of her new classroom makes it much easier to run labs and small group activities so students can learn biology.

She demonstrated how the tables’ rolling wheels, plus a larger classroom, mean she can easily adjust furniture so students can roll a table to the lab counter and have more space, or circle up in a group.

The tables also adjust height, making it easy for her to seat students who use wheelchairs.

“I love this room,” Hunt said during a Friday tour of the building.

Hunt and her students are among those at McKay benefitting from a recently completed $64 million renovation of the school which began in the spring of 2020.

The work, funded by a property tax increase local voters approved in 2018, added a new wing to the school’s northeast side with new science rooms and an expanded library.

Principal Ranae Quiring speaks during the ribbon-cutting ceremony at McKay High School on Friday, Oct. 8, 2021. (Amanda Loman/Salem Reporter)

“No more teaching chemistry from what looked like the kitchen sink!” principal Ranae Quiring said during an Oct. 8 ribbon cutting ceremony. The school’s old portable classrooms are also gone.

A new career technical education building on the south side of the high school includes more space for culinary, agriculture and engineering programs. 

The school’s engineering students have won multiple national grants for projects and previously operated out of a regular-sized classroom with equipment like 3D printers shoved along the walls. Now, their classroom includes rows of computers for students to work on and more room for equipment.

More special education students who live in northeast Salem will be able to attend classes at McKay instead of being bussed across the district, thanks to two new developmental learning center classrooms for students with complex medical needs or other disabilities that require intensive support.

A life skills classroom in the new addition at McKay High School on Friday, Oct. 8, 2021. (Amanda Loman/Salem Reporter)

The school now has dedicated classrooms for orchestra, band and choir and a new black box theater. That means students no longer have to store instruments in the hall or hold musical ensemble classes in spaces many McKay educators described as “closets.”

McKay is the largest of the district’s six high schools and was the third to complete major renovations after construction at North Salem and McNary high schools finished last fall. Renovations are also wrapping up at South Salem High School, and underway at Sprague and West.

The school’s old library, formerly straight ahead as students walked in the front doors, was gutted and used to expand the cafeteria, allowing the school’s 2,200 students to eat lunch with less crowding.

“For the longest period of time, McKay has been known for being excessively overcrowded,” said senior Ethan Miranda, speaking at a ribbon-cutting ceremony Oct. 8.

As an orchestra student, he said he especially appreciated having more room to store instruments.

“We have much more room to breathe,” he said.

A choir room in the new addition at McKay High School on Friday, Oct. 8, 2021. (Amanda Loman/Salem Reporter)

The new library at McKay High School on Friday, Oct. 8, 2021. (Amanda Loman/Salem Reporter)

Staff member Stephanie Young assembles candy favors in the new CTE Building at McKay High School on Friday, Oct. 8, 2021. (Amanda Loman/Salem Reporter)

Students walk outside of the new building at McKay High School on Friday, Oct. 8, 2021. (Amanda Loman/Salem Reporter)

A string quartet plays outside of the new CTE building at McKay High School on Friday, Oct. 8, 2021. (Amanda Loman/Salem Reporter)

The band plays during the ribbon-cutting ceremony at McKay High School on Friday, Oct. 8, 2021. (Amanda Loman/Salem Reporter)

McKay senior Grace Caldwell cuts a ribbon during the ribbon-cutting ceremony for the new addition at McKay High School on Friday, Oct. 8, 2021. (Amanda Loman/Salem Reporter)

Textbook storage in the new addition at McKay High School on Friday, Oct. 8, 2021. (Amanda Loman/Salem Reporter)

The expanded cafeteria area at McKay High School on Friday, Oct. 8, 2021. (Amanda Loman/Salem Reporter)

A gym in the new addition at McKay High School on Friday, Oct. 8, 2021. (Amanda Loman/Salem Reporter)

A science classroom in the new addition at McKay High School on Friday, Oct. 8, 2021. (Amanda Loman/Salem Reporter)

A science classroom in the new addition at McKay High School on Friday, Oct. 8, 2021. (Amanda Loman/Salem Reporter)

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

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