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Putting arts and fitness front and center: Public invited to see Challand’s new addition

An open house will be held from from 6 to 7 p.m. Wednesday at Challand Middle School's  new $8 million fine arts and gymnasium center, 1700 Sixth Ave.
An open house will be held from from 6 to 7 p.m. Wednesday at Challand Middle School's new $8 million fine arts and gymnasium center, 1700 Sixth Ave.

STERLING – After a year of hammering, dust and debris, the Sterling School District is ready to show off Challand Middle School’s sunny new $8 million fine arts and gymnasium center.

An open house will be held from 6 to 7 p.m. Wednesday. Parking will be available in the north lot at 1700 Sixth Ave., and across the street at the Whiteside Area Career Center.

The expansion, which was finished Friday, has four basketball/volleyball courts, a renovated fitness room, an athletic trainer room, an office, a concessions stand, and on the south side, an orchestra room and a choir room.

The 42,000-plus-square-foot addition is part of an effort to make room for Challand’s expanding fine arts program and to bring sports back to the middle school.

The center will solve a number of issues the school has had to contend with. “It’s a great, big weight off our shoulders,” Principal Matt Birdsley said.

“We had to turn away kids, because there were 120 to 130 wanting to take choir and our old choir room couldn’t hold that many,” Birdsley said.

The same was true of the old, cramped gym.

“We tried to fit two to three P.E. classes at the same time. There wasn’t enough space for the 90 kids in that gym,” he said.

The addition means the school’s athletic program, which has used the Sterling Park District facilities since 2002, can come home, Birdsley said.

“The park district did a great job running it for the last 16 years, but we wanted to bring back those athletics to Challand and not have to turn anyone away due to a space restriction.”


Challand Middle School will show off its new fine arts and gymnasium center at an open house from 6 to 7 p.m. Wednesday at 1700 Sixth Ave., following the annual Back to School Night from 5 to 6 p.m.

Call the school at 815-626-3300 or find Sterling Public Schools on Facebook for more information. You also can find a few videos Principal Matt Birdsley posted July 25 of the work in progress.

If you can't make it to Wednesday's self-guided tours, the Challand Middle School PTO is having a Back to School tailgate party and open house from 5 to 7 p.m. Friday.

In addition to checking out the new center, guests can buy a hot dog, chips, and a bottle of water for $1. There also will be a bounce house, and vehicle test drives.

Find Challand Middle School PTO on Facebook for more information.

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