Just over a year ago, voters in our district approved a School Construction Bond that will build three brand new schools in the coming years. Money from the bond will also be used to renovate and expand five other schools. The first school, Elementary #18, will open its doors in the fall of 2021.
We didn’t start the fire
The new Bethel High School is slated to open to students in the fall of 2023. Much of the planning is on paper at this point, but a fire in February certainly put the future location of the new school on the map for local residents. There was an old house on the district-owned property that needed to be removed before any site work could begin. Superintendent Tom Seigel offered the building to Graham Fire & Rescue as a training ground, as long as when they were done, they would burn it to the ground.
For two months, Graham Fire trained in the house. They even invited students from the Pierce County Skills Center’s Fire Science program to join them for a few days of training. Those students also joined the firefighters on the final day, and got a front row seat to watch the structure burn to the ground.
Since the year 2000, our corner of Pierce County has grown by 66,800 people. A senior planner for Pierce County presented to our School Board recently about the Community Plan Updates currently in the works that will impact our district. We have been working with the county since the start of this process and will continue to do so as things move forward.
More students than ever will be calling our schools home as apartments and single family homes continue to be built in our area. Superintendent Tom Seigel said we have already added more than 600 students in the past four months, and that amount of growth was, “very unusual.”
Architects on board
The administration recently completed the architectural selection process for two of our upcoming bond projects. The Challenger High School Phase II project went to Erickson McGovern Architects of Tacoma. The Graham-Kapowsin High School expansion project was awarded to NAC Architecture of Seattle. NAC was the firm in charge of the original GKHS building, so they will be a good fit for the expansion.
Bethel Early Learning Center
A dedicated preschool building has been in the works for some time, and while the Bethel Early Learning Center isn’t funded by the 2019 bond, its completion will open up classrooms in our elementary schools to help ease the overcrowding we’ve been facing, and the future growth that is heading our way.
Schematic designs for the project were unveiled at a recent School Board meeting. They showed seven preschool classrooms that will house up to 18 students each. The building will also feature a full warming kitchen to prepare lunches and snacks, along with a playground.
The building is an old church on Pacific Avenue that the district already owns and uses as office space. The designs show that architects are keeping as much of the original building as possible. This will help to get the project done as quickly as possible. The goal is to begin construction this fall, and open the building for students in the fall of 2021, alongside Elementary #18.