Work has started at the site of Pasco School District’s third comprehensive high school.
The nearly 300,000-square-foot school at 6091 Burns Road is scheduled to open in fall 2025. Fowler General Construction is the contractor and MMEC Architecture & Interiors handled the design.
The new school will help ease overcrowding in a district that’s experienced more than a decade of transformational growth and that already boasts the first- and sixth-largest high schools in the state in terms of enrollment: Chiawana and Pasco high schools. Pasco has more than 19,200 students total across all its schools and programs, making it the largest district in the Tri-Cities.
The new school will cost about $185 million, with nearly $140 million coming from a bond measure approved by district voters in February. About $45 million will come from state matching dollars.
Pasco was the only district in Washington to pass a bond during the February or April elections.
“It’s an extraordinary testament to this community’s commitment and investment in our youth,” said Superintendent Michelle Whitney during a groundbreaking for the new high school on Aug. 17. “This (event) symbolizes our investment in the future of schools and our commitment to providing an equitable education experience for all students. Together, we build bright futures.”
The new school will sit on 65 acres and have 82 classrooms, plus other features.
It will be similar to Chiawana and Pasco high schools in size, programming and extracurricular activities, and it will offer a full continuum of career and technical education (CTE) classes, with a focus on agriculture, said Mira Gobel, assistant superintendent of schools and social emotional learning.
“This dedication is preparing our students for practical and real-world skills in this vital industry (and) emphasizes our dedication to their growth and success in their future,” she said.
Raquel Martinez has been selected as the planning principal of the new high school.
She’s been with the district since 2006, when she became a biology teacher at Pasco High School. Her role eventually expanded to bilingual facilitator and science department chair, and then she moved to Stevens Middle School, where she was an assistant principal and then principal.
The new high school doesn’t have a name yet, but district officials solicited suggestions from the public and a naming committee will narrow the field and submit choices to the school board this fall.
The district also sought name ideas for another new high school: a smaller college and career academy that’s set to be built on Salt Lake Street in east Pasco, near Curie STEM Elementary School.
That 65,000-square-foot school will serve 600 students. The idea is that they’ll graduate with a credential or industry certification and the hands-on experience to move into post-secondary education or a career path after high school, according to information from the district. Construction is expected to start next spring and wrap up in time for the new school to open in fall 2025.
The college and career academy also is part of the $195.5 million voter-approved bond, along with athletic field and facility improvements, CTE enhancements and modernizations, and land purchases.
As construction starts on the new comprehensive high school, the district also is thinking about how it will adjust boundaries. It’s seeking feedback from the public through Oct. 1.
While the two new high schools are in the works, the district celebrated the completion of another capital project: a new home for the digital learning programs and health services.
District and community leaders celebrated with a ribbon cutting on Aug. 24.
The 9,900-square-foot facility at 4403 W. Court St. has two buildings, separated by a breezeway. The Health Services Center occupies the 2,500-square-foot Building A. The Digital Learning Center, which includes the district’s four virtual learning programs under the Digital Learning Academy umbrella, is housed in the 7,400-square-foot Building B.
Contractors were Nelson Construction for Building A and G2 Construction for Building B.
Design West Architects handled the design for both buildings.
The district bought the West Court Street building in March 2022 and began remodeling it shortly thereafter. The project cost $4.1 million, including the property purchase, with the money coming from the district’s capital projects fund and federal dollars for Covid-19 relief.
The Digital Learning Academy serves about 600 students.
“This remarkable facility stands as a testament to our unwavering commitment to fostering a future where education seamlessly intertwines with technology to meet the needs of (our) students,” said Megan Hockaday, director of virtual learning, during the ribbon cutting. “As we open these doors for the 2023-24 school year, we usher in an era of learning where students will have access to a dynamic and interactive educational environment that transcends traditional boundaries.”
Hockaday said the building will be a “hub of creativity, knowledge sharing and skill development.”
Superintendent Whitney said the district is “proud to be able to offer an innovative space that matches the quality of the program that’s delivered within.”
The Health Services Center also will be a hub for important services, she said. It’s a “dedicated space where our committed staff members focus on nurturing students’ social-emotional well-being and acts as a central hub for a variety of services, including hosting training and conducting immunization clinics, Covid testing, and hearing and vision screenings,” Whitney said during the ribbon cutting event.
The two buildings have about 29 classrooms between them.
Before the district bought the facility, it was home to a medical office and a dental office.
Daily and Monthly NewsSign up now!