Erik Hidle / The Bulletin

REDMOND — When school starts in Redmond next year, hundreds of students will bustle through the halls of Ridgeview High School on the south side of the city.

They'll be the first class in the Redmond School District's new high school and the first to see the best a district can offer in technology and design.

The 250,000-square-foot, $75 million school offers dental and medical labs, a video editing workroom complete with sound stage, control booth and greenroom, a solar panel monitoring center for alternative energy courses, recording studios that simulate different audio environments and one of the nicest auditoriums in Central Oregon.

“When I look at some of this I get excited not just for our students but for the entire community we serve,” said Redmond School District Superintendent Shay Mikalson. “The excitement of seeing this come together, of seeing kids get a chance to succeed with everything that will be here, it's incredible.”

Mikalson said the building ushers in new opportunities for students to graduate prepared for the world beyond high school.

“We want all of our students to be college prepared,” he said. “We believe in getting kids to leave this system not just with knowledge but with the ability to apply that knowledge.”

When the building is complete, the district will split its student body between Ridgeview and Redmond high schools. The schools are designed to complement each other, with different elective offerings at each location. Attendance boundaries will be set, but students will be allowed to choose a school based on their interest in curriculum.

But that's not until next year. For now, construction continues at the campus on the corner of Southwest Canal Boulevard and Southwest Elkhorn Street.

When voters approved a $110 million infrastructure bond in 2008, the district intended to open the new school in time for this school year. But when economic conditions changed and enrollment stopped growing as predicted, the district changed the completion date.

Mike McIntosh, the district's director of operations, said by slowing construction, the district saved $5 million in building costs. The leftover money will be used for upgrades at Redmond High School.

And while enrollment numbers have slowed, the new space is still a priority. The current high school is operating across two campuses. All freshmen attend the Hartman Campus, which is located across the street from the main building, and according to early estimates, student enrollment this year will exceed 1,700. That makes the school a large, 6A institution by Oregon School Activities Association standards.

“We hope to open Ridgeview as a 4A school,” Mikalson said, “then in a few years have both high schools compete in athletics and activities at 5A.”The change would put the two schools in the same classification as the three Bend-area high schools and create the opportunity for a local league in Central Oregon. The building is intended to serve the community with the auditorium, meeting spaces and gymnasiums.

When administrators check on the progress, they eagerly discuss the potential of each new space as it reaches completion. Lee Loving, planning principal for Ridgeview, stands in the middle of a cylindrical atrium that has slowly taken the shape of a library in the middle of the school. He's calling it “the center of the universe.”

But there are no books yet. Not until next year.

Several decisions are still to be made. Attendance boundary lines are still being set, teaching positions are being decided and minutiae such as schedules, curriculum and what textbooks to purchase are still being decided.

“We have a group of teachers on a strategic planning team working hard on these decisions,” Loving said. “The big question now is how do we make everything we do better for kids. It's a neat thing to say how we're going to do that but when you walk through this school and see what can be done, well, it speaks for itself.”