MOSES LAKE — The Moses Lake School Board on Thursday approved a plan to build a second, smaller high school just south of Moses Lake High School, with an anticipated cost of $75.3 million.
The 700 to 900 student school, which the district is currently referring to as “Real World Academy,” will sit between MLHS and the Columbia Basin Technical Skills Center, creating a giant secondary complex on roughly 96 acres the district currently owns between Sharon Avenue and Yonezawa Boulevard.
“That’s the working title,” Superintendent Josh Meek told members of the school board. “We just got tired of calling it High School No. 2”
According to Meek, the second high school will “complement” Moses Lake High School, and will be designed to facilitate “collaborative learning” and “focus on skills for future careers.” The single giant campus complex would allow MLHS students to walk to CB Tech and move easily between the three school buildings, and would allow the district to focus on more non-traditional means grounded in career and technical education to help more kids graduate.
“What can we do in high school and do it differently? Some kids flourish in traditional educational environment. We can meet their needs and those who aren’t flourishing,” Meek said. “It’s about giving our students the tools they need to enter the workforce.”
With the board’s approval, design work will begin on the new high school this summer and if all goes well, construction on the new high school would start in late 2020 and the school would be completed by fall of 2022.
In February 2017, MLSD voters approved by a slim margin of three votes a $135 million bond to build a second 1,600 student high school and an 11th elementary school for the district. However, a group of district voters sued, claiming Grant County Auditor Michele Jaderlund failed to follow the law in certifying the election. While the voters lost, they managed to prevent the bonds from being issued, raising the costs of a second, full-sized high school beyond the amount of the bond issue.
Meek told school board members that by building a smaller high school and not creating over-capacity the district won’t be using; the MLSD will be eligible for roughly $34 million in additional state construction money in 2028 — 30 years after the high school’s previous major renovation.
“It’s a much healthier investment,” Meek said.
The election of Elliott Goodrich and Vickey Melcher — both opponents of the new high school — to the school board in 2017 also forced the district to reconsider its construction priorities. After a great deal of study and several contentious public hearings, the school board voted to pursue construction of a smaller high school and two elementary schools.
“I’m very excited about this,” said Goodrich, the current school board president. “School will not look the same in 20 years. Building spaces that are changeable will help our kids 20 years from now.”
“This is something the board can be very proud of for our kids and our community,” he added.
During Thursday’s meeting, the school board also approved the prototypical design for the district’s next elementary schools. The two story, roughly $16 million design is not only for elementary schools 11 and 12, but are also intended to replace several of the district’s older elementary schools built in the 1950s and 1960s by the Department of Defense.
Again, if all goes according to plan, construction on Elementary School 11 will start in late 2020 and the school should be open by fall of 2021.
The plan from Spokane-based architects DesignWest showed an elementary school site on Road L Northeast, south of Wheeler Road and directly across from Guardian Angels Cemetery. However, Goodrich said no sites have been selected for Elementary School 11 — which under the original plan was to be built on Yonezawa Boulevard next to CB Tech — and while land deals are being worked on, nothing has been completed yet.