The Oregon Youth Challenge Program will be able to enroll more than 80 additional at-risk high school students per term and hire up to 30 more staff members by 2020 after a $10 million renovation and expansion project. The project will improve safety conditions, update the building’s aging interior and expand the facility.

“Overall, it’s a win-win for Oregon,” said Frank Tallman, the program’s deputy director. “We can help more kids (and) get more jobs in Central Oregon.”

The program, which is a tuition-free statewide alternative high school associated with the National Guard, secured both a $4.9 million bond from Oregon legislators in March and $5.3 million from the National Guard in September.

Phase one renovations will begin at the end of this month and be complete before New Year’s, said Scott Jackson, project manager with Kirby Nagelhout. The two existing boys dorms will be renovated and a third, larger dorm for girls will be added. The second phase — expected to be finished in January 2020 — will not only continue renovations in the existing building, but also expand the location to the south with a fourth dorm and more classrooms and other necessities.

”When you add more kids, you’ve got to have more everything,” Jackson said. “More restrooms, more classrooms, more dormitories, more teachers’ offices, everything.”

Tallman said the Oregon Youth Challenge Program can currently house 156 students (or cadets) per 22-week class. After the expansion is complete, enrollment should increase to 240 per class, or 480 per year, and the number of staff members should also jump from 53 to about 80.

One change coming to the program will be more space for girls; currently, there is only one small dorm. Tallman said Oregon legislators wanted “more female opportunity” at the program, so at least one of the four large dorms will be designated for girls. And if an incoming class is 50-50 between the genders, the facility has the ability to be flexible and have two boys and two girls dorms, or three girls dorms and one boys dorm.

The current building was constructed in the early 1980s as a military facility. After being decommissioned when the Cold War ended, the location became the home for the youth program in the ’90s.

“We have some code issues, because this building was so old,” Tallman said. “Since we’re doing a renovation, it’s got to be brought up to current code.”

According to Tallman and Jackson, the project will help fireproof the facility’s dormitories, add energy-efficient utilities and make the building “a little newer, a little nicer.”

The new space will also help transform the Oregon Youth Challenge building into more of a traditional school. It wasn’t built for its current purpose and feels like a maze.

“It’s kind of chopped up in here, so they’re going to move some things around so it will actually function as a school, as opposed to an old building that they hacked up and made into a school,” Jackson said.

The program accepts students throughout Oregon, has them live at its desert campus east of Bend for 22 weeks and puts them through a rigorous academic schedule during which students earn nearly two years worth of high school credits.

Kirby Nagelhout was excited to collaborate with Oregon Youth Challenge Program.

“Obviously, anybody who knows what OYCP does and the results that happen, you’re going to want to be a part of that,” Jackson said. “We’re really happy to be a part of this project.”

— Reporter: 541-617-7854, jhogan@bendbulletin.com

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