We at the Kennewick School District want to extend a debt of gratitude to our local community who gave us their vote of confidence last year by passing an $89.5 million school bond to build five schools within the district.
The 2015 school bond was not just the largest, but the first bond issue to pass on the first try in the district’s recent history. This action has sent a strong and valid message of support that warms the collective hearts of the teachers, administrators, and students across the district and extended Tri-City community.
We are honored to be entrusted with the task of delivering the best possible education to our youth, and believe that the learning environments play a large role in their success. The bond will support our efforts through the building of two brand new elementary schools and one middle school, as well as a new Desert Hills Middle School and a new Westgate Elementary.
Part of our commitment to the Kennewick community is to engage in an aggressive construction timeline. We have made fantastic headway, approaching the halfway point on the new Desert Hills Middle School, which is being relocated to Clodfelter Road with plans to open in fall 2017. The new Desert Hills location offers more classroom and gym space, and includes room for athletic fields and a new track.
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The new Chinook Middle School is just a few months behind Desert Hills in construction. The students attending Chinook will begin the next school year at the old Desert Hills building with plans to move by early 2017 to the new site at 27th Avenue and Southridge Boulevard.
The construction of Sage Crest Elementary, Kennewick’s newest elementary school, is also moving forward. Sage Crest is just south of Southridge High School near Interstate 82; we are on track to open its doors in fall 2016 as well. As you drive along Fourth Avenue near Highway 395, you will notice that the old Westgate Elementary building has been demolished. We will begin construction on the new building at the same site this spring with the goal of opening in fall 2017.
To better balance the district’s elementary and middle school populations, adjustments have been made to the respective school boundaries for 2016-17. We anticipate that the average enrollment of our middle schools will drop from 1,000 to approximately 750. We also expect to provide some much-needed relief from overcrowding at the elementary schools.
The school board will make a decision this spring about where to locate the final construction project within the bond. This project will be a new elementary school that will open for student enrollment in fall 2018. Three potential sites owned on the west side of the district are being studied as viable options: Hansen Park, Clearwater Creek and Badger South.
We are looking at a variety of options on the west side of the district to purchase a 60-acre site for a future high school. The funding for this purchase was included in the school bond package. The restrictions of the current Growth Management Act create a challenge as we search for affordable, accessible, buildable land with city services. However, we are committed to exploring every viable option to make sure that we select the best location within our means.
Please know that the very best interests for our children and our community are at the forefront of our decision-making process. We vow to continue using taxpayer dollars responsibly in our effort to make the most of our community’s investment in our schools, while still balancing the learning needs of our students. Thank you again to the members of the Kennewick community for your continued support of our community’s children.