The gym at the former Desert Hills Middle School is going to get a new purpose after Chinook Middle School students move into their new building.
Kennewick School Board members agreed to move the Mid-Columbia Partnership into the school’s gym complex from five double portables.
Officials expect the change to give the roughly 300 home-school students enrolled in the partnership a more secure environment and easier access to common areas, while giving instructors more chances to work together.
“Our goal is to turn this into what would look like a regular school,” said Doug Carl, the director of capital projects. “If we do it this way, it’s going to cost a little more money than what we initially talked about.”
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The students enrolled in the partnership are taking courses that may require a higher level of expertise than their parents can provide. The district offers math, science, social studies, language arts and physical education courses through the program.
The former Desert Hills buildings are presently used by Chinook Middle School students while construction crews work on the new middle school at 27th Avenue and Southridge Boulevard.
Once the new middle school opens in 2017, district officials want to use the Desert Hills site as the home of a new dual-language elementary school, said Robyn Chastain, the district’s director of communications and public relations.
Before a new school is built on the site, officials plan to remodel the roughly 24,000-square-foot building, which housed the gym, locker rooms, wrestling room, fitness lab, health classroom and kitchen, and convert it into classrooms, a gym, a cafeteria and other offices, Doug Carl, the district’s director of capital projects, said.
He presented a preliminary design to school board members.
“This is by no means an actual drawing of what we could go out and construct today,” he said. “It’s simply a schematic design that we’re using as a rough estimate.”
The new direction for the district replaces plans to move the portables to the new site and keep the gym, or demolish the gym with the construction of the new school.
John Perkins, a facilities committee member, agreed with the change.
“Moving portables to the Desert Hills site makes it less convenient for them planning the rest of the new school there,” he said. “That gym is huge.”
District officials do not have final drawings or a cost estimate of renovations. District officials estimated the plan for the new school is going to cost $2 million more than officials planned.
The project isn’t included in an upcoming bond the district is considering asking voters to approve in 2019, Chastain said. The district could use state or district funds to complete it.
“There is no estimate available of when the actual construction would start,” Chastain said. “The goal would be to have it completed by August 2019 or sooner.”