February Bond: Big changes coming to Bethel high schools

BHS staff and students deserve a brand new building

Originally built in 1952, Bethel High is by far the oldest high school in the district. The school’s been expanded and renovated over the years — the last time way back in 1989 — but many in the community believe the students and staff deserve better.

That’s why the School Board has opted to move Bethel High School 2.5 miles down the road to a brand new 250,000 square feet school building that will comfortably house 1,800 students. It will be the biggest high school in the district.

This is, of course, if voters approve the February School Construction Bond.

Few schools have a more loyal alumni base than Bethel High, but even the most fervent supporters admit the old building needed a drastic overhaul at the very least. Other suggested it should be torn down and rebuilt from the ground up.

“The infrastructure of the building is just falling apart,” said Dr. Jennifer Bethman, Bethel’s Assistant Superintendent of Secondary Schools. “There’s water that comes through the roof. Whenever it rains hard the ceiling tiles fall and the water comes falling down. We’ve had problems with rodents out there. It’s just an old building. It looks good from the outside, but inside it’s just old. The kids deserve better.”

Unfortunately, tearing down the current building would add more money onto an already expensive bond measure. That’s why the decision was made to move BHS down the road to the property the district already owns, across 224th from North Star Elementary in the field behind Rainier View Church.

Moving a high school can be an emotional time for everyone, especially those who spent their formative years inside the walls. But it’s not the drywall and wiring that matters. It’s the memories and the memorabilia, the staff and students — all of which will be moved to the new building if the February bond passes.

Swing School

Once BHS students move into the new building, the old Bethel High School building at 224th and 38th would be used as a “swing school” to house students from the other schools on the bond that would be renovated and expanded. This model saves money by cutting down on construction time, so builders don’t have to work around an active school filled with students.

The swing school will be operational for about a decade as all the bond projects are completed. After that, the building would be used for the needs of the district at that time. It could become anything from a magnet high school to a preschool center. But that need will be for the school board of 2029 to decide.

New wing for the Eagles

The February bond proposal would also add capacity at our other two comprehensive high schools, Spanaway Lake and Graham-Kapowsin, so they can comfortably accommodate 1,800 students as well.

To accomplish this, SLHS will be getting more portable classrooms, and GKHS will be getting a new wing, to be built where the portables currently stand. The wing was part of the original design of GK, but was removed to get the 2001 bond under $100 million in the hopes of making it more palatable for voters. It worked, and the 2001 bond finally passed (by 96 votes) after eight failed attempts.

GK will also get increased space in the common areas to help support its large student population — currently the largest in Pierce County.

Challenger High School graduate

Challenger’s campus of portables gets an upgrade

Challenger High School has changed locations several times since it first opened in 1974 with just six students, but the one thing it has never had is a permanent, brick-and-mortar building to call its own. The School Board recently authorized a new building for Challenger using money from the general fund. Calling it “Phase I,” the building will house classrooms and common areas for students and staff. Phase II will be a second permanent building, which will be funded by the February bond.

You can find more information about the February bond measure at bethelsd.org/bond.

Helping kids learn is the driving force behind all we do in the Bethel School District.

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