The state's schools chief has approved a request that would provide $10 million to $12 million to build a new Delta High School.
Pasco School District Superintendent Saundra Hill announced state Superintendent of Public Instruction Randy Dorn's decision at the end of her school board's regular meeting Tuesday night.
Administrators in the Pasco, Kennewick and Richland school districts filed the request with Dorn's office in winter to get the $15 million to $18 million project off the ground.
The process to build a bigger and better facility for the science, technology, engineering and math, or STEM, high school has had its ups and downs over the past nine months, but Hill said Dorn's approval provides some much-needed good news.
"If we come up with the difference, we can go to bid in January 2014," Hill told the Herald.
Delta High is jointly operated by the districts with support from the Washington State STEM Education Foundation and private partners. It enrolls about 340 students and will graduate its first senior class June 7.
The school uses buildings owned by Columbia Basin College on Northgate Avenue in Richland, as well as some classrooms in a neighboring building. The current lease ends in 2014.
The districts and their partners have worked since last summer to find a new home for the school. Their plans were delayed when the Richland School Board raised concerns about financial liability if not enough money was raised by the foundation to pay for the project.
That led to a new funding proposal for the project: the districts would ask Dorn to provide a 90-percent match to cover the bulk of construction, while the foundation sought additional money from the Legislature.
Dorn's approval of the matching funds will cover about two-thirds to nearly three-quarters of the construction costs because of the state will not pay for certain expenses, Hill said. It's also unclear how the process moves forward from this point, as the districts haven't yet received a check.
"This is the first time this particular (state law) has been used for this particular purpose," Hill said of the state's ability to provide the money.
The foundation is still lobbying the Legislature for the remaining portion of the construction budget. A piece of land has already been purchased in west Pasco and the districts are working with Pasco city planners on construction permits for the school.
-- Ty Beaver: 509-582-1402; firstname.lastname@example.org; Twitter: @_tybeaver