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Different approach: Academy students will have the option to participate in sports, activities at Moses Lake High School

by CHARLES H. FEATHERSTONE
Staff Writer | September 14, 2021 1:07 AM

MOSES LAKE — It’s the future of high school.

That’s what planning principal Kelly Cutter said as she kicked up dust Monday afternoon while walking at the construction site of the Moses Lake School District’s new high school, informally referred to as the “Real World Academy.”

“I’ve never done anything like this,” said Cutter, who came to the MLSD from a stint as principal of Warden Elementary School. “There’s a never-ending list of updates and communication you have to be very intentional with. And you have to be a good planner.”

The academy is the biggest project to result from the reworked $135 million school construction bond originally passed by district voters by a three-vote margin in February 2017. That bond called for the construction of a 1,600-student second high school, as well as an 11th elementary school.

However, a lawsuit filed by district voters challenging the certification of the bond vote, followed by the election of Vickey Melcher and Elliott Goodrich to the board in November 2017, delayed the sale of bonds until the Washington Court of Appeals rejected the challenge. The board then held a series of contentious public meetings to repurpose the bond toward the construction of a smaller, 700-900-student high school and two new elementary schools.

The first of those schools, Vicki Groff Elementary, opened earlier this month. Work on the 135,000-square-foot, $58-million academy began earlier this year, and it is scheduled to open in September 2022.

“We will be ready for next fall. We’ll have the big scissors and cut the ribbon and let the kids in,” Cutter said.

Whatever the new high school is named — the five finalists are Ronald Reagan Academy, Renaissance Academy, Vanguard Academy, Sinkiuse Academy and Sinkiuse Innovation Academy — Cutter said the focus will be on academy, which she believes best describes the school’s focus on “project-based learning.”

Cutter said project-based learning will present problems or projects to groups of students who will then approach those problems from various angles, and demonstrate what they have learned as they work to complete the project.

“It will be a cross-disciplinary approach. Kids will have teams of teachers and they will be working around a problem, and all the disciplines come into the problem.”

It’s a model that has been used on a small scale across the country, Cutter said, and will help young people prepare “for jobs that have not been created yet.”

Cutter said her planning team — she said she has already hired 10 teachers and will look at how many more will be needed next spring when enrollment becomes clearer — is also beginning to reach out to community organizations like the Moses Lake Chamber of Commerce, Grant County Economic Development Council and civic groups like the Rotary Club for people and companies willing to present problems as well as mentor and speak at school.

Academy students will also have the option to play sports and participate in activities at Moses Lake High School, though the new school will also have its own clubs and activities.

“That will be an important part of the culture at the academy,” she said.

Cutter said the goal is to ensure a student who may be interested in power and electricity is ready to go to college and study electrical engineering or embark on a training to become an electrician.

“It’s a great opportunity for many of our students who aren’t traditional learners,” she said. “Many of our students learn this way naturally, and it’s a good fit.”

Charles H. Featherstone can be reached at cfeatherstone@columbiabasinherald.com.

photo

Casey McCarthy/Columbia Basin Herald

Walls of Moses Lake School District’s new high school rise earlier this month.