Thank you, voters!
All the progress we report on each month is thanks to our voters, who approved the School Construction Bond back in February 2019. Bond elections are needed in Washington because local school districts are still responsible for the majority of the cost to build new schools and fix old ones. It is with great thanks to the voters in our area that we are able to build new schools, and fix and expand others.
Bonds are for building, levies are for learning
Next year, the district will have two levies up for renewal. These levy dollars are separate from the 2019 bond. The Educational Programs and Operations Levy was last renewed in 2018, and helps pay for critical things like Special Education programs and extra transportation costs — items the state does not fully fund. The Technology Levy, which was first passed in 2014 and last renewed in 2018, funds our iPad program that helped our district transition quickly to online learning during the start of the COVID-19 pandemic.
We will share more information about the levies in the coming months. Until then, read on to take a look at six of our biggest construction projects that are currently underway!
Katherine G. Johnson Elementary
A group of Bethel administrators and School Board members recently took a tour of the brand new Katherine G. Johnson Elementary School. While the school is opening later than anticipated due to issues the power company has encountered, students and staff will start the school year in class together using space in nearby schools. That way, once construction is complete, they will be able to move into the new school without missing a beat.
Challenger High School Phase II
The second phase of Challenger High School’s renovation and expansion is underway! Foundation work is already in progress for the 31,000-square foot project. The new building will add more classroom space, as well as more parking and a practice field.
The completed school is scheduled to open to students in the fall of 2022.
New Bethel High School
As reported back in February, changes to Pierce County Stormwater regulations have delayed the opening of the new Bethel High School until 2024 or 2025.
The updates to the Pierce County Stormwater Manual’s regulations reflect the evolution of “best available science” and have resulted in development standards that are different than when the district purchased the property in 2009.
The changes to the Stormwater Manual include new more stringent threshold methodologies to determine if the site’s stormwater could impact a “Category 1 Wetland,” which is located in the southeast corner of the new Bethel High School site.
The District is already working to study the movement of the site’s groundwater, but the process can take up to one year. If it takes a full year, the opening of the school could be pushed back to the fall of 2025.
“Of course, we’re disappointed that new regulations will delay the opening of a much needed school in our growing community,” said Superintendent Tom Seigel. “But Bethel School District works very hard to be good stewards of the environment, and we will continue to protect our natural resources, and in so doing, set an example for our students.”
New Naches Trail Elementary
Back in March we announced that Naches Trail Elementary students will have a brand new school in the fall of 2023.
The project, which is part of the voter-approved 2019 School Construction Bond, was originally slated to be a complete remodel and expansion, but a cost analysis determined it would be more expensive to modernize the current Naches Trail than it would be to simply build a new school.
A similar determination was made during the planning stages of the Clover Creek, Spanaway and Thompson elementary remodels. Those schools where originally scheduled to be expanded and remodeled as part of our 2006 bond, but all were all rebuilt entirely for similar reasons.
By building a completely new school on adjacent property the district already owns, Naches Trail students won’t have to be relocated during the construction, which saves money, makes the build quicker, and is safer for students and teachers.
The new Naches Trail will use a similar building design to the new Katherine G. Johnson Elementary.
GKHS Addition and Renovation Project
The 33,000-square-foot expansion will add a classroom wing, a gym and weight room, along with administrative spaces and a larger commons. The expansion is scheduled to be ready for the 2024/25 school year.
Bethel Hope Early Learning Center
While not a bond project, the Bethel Hope Early Learning Center is also nearing completion in time for its much anticipated opening this fall.
Funded by impact fees, the center will be the first of its kind in the district. It was designed to allow us to move preschool classrooms out of our crowded elementary schools and into the new building. The 12,000 square foot center will feature seven classrooms, administrative offices, support facilities, and will house approximately 250 students each day.