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COQUILLE — The nearly $5 million Winter Lakes High School and Coquille Trade Building is now open.

Classes started for students on Tuesday, Jan. 7 after the ribbon cutting ceremony the night before, where the Coquille School Board each held a pair of scissors on a “Winter Lakes High School” banner.

“I’m relieved to hand this off to administrators and staff,” said Tim Sweeney, Coquille School District superintendent, before the ceremony began.

When asked how students were feeling about moving from the old Winter Lakes location, a cramped and aged building, Sweeney said they seemed excited.

“We had five students come to the new school (Monday) when they didn’t have school that day,” he said. “They got tours and took a look around.”

Though classes didn’t begin on Monday, Jan. 6, teachers were allowed to move in items and decorate classrooms one day before students filled the hallways.

The new building sits near the highway at the edge of Coquille, topped with solar panels and large bay windows. On the inside, a 5,000-pound computer screen is mounted on the wall of the cafeteria, which Sweeney says will also be a room for learning.

However, one of the biggest jumps in technology includes the $100,000 construction simulators. The two simulators sit in their own classroom, made to mimic Caterpillar equipment. The one lower to the ground is a “Generation Two” model, designed as an excavator while the larger one is a “Generation Four” model designed as a small front-loader.

“They are very much like video games,” said Tony Jones, Winter Lakes administrator. “There is a surround screen and students will get a sense of motion right away when the machine rises up hydraulically and mimics the ground they’re working on. If they are on a hill, it tilts, if it is rocky it will shake.”

Jones sat in the Generation Four simulator to show off the technology, how it takes students through the usual check-up on the machine before using it.

“I think on Tuesday this will be a very popular room,” Jones said about the simulators.

Jones pointed out other features of the new building, including a washer and dryer and a restroom that features a shower.

“These are for kids who might need these, whatever their situation is, and are welcome to them,” he said.

The space for the cosmetology program hasn’t been finished quite yet, but Sweeney said that should be ready to see classes by next September.

“None of us had any idea this was possible,” Sweeney said, looking around at the new building. “To fill a need for our students is gratifying.”

He pointed out that since opening Winter Lakes School, it has led 450 students to graduation.

“And of those, 325 probably wouldn’t have graduated without it,” Sweeney said.

Reporter Jillian Ward can be reached at 541-269-1222, ext. 235, or by email at jillian.ward@theworldlink.com. Follow her on Twitter: @JE_Wardwriter.

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