Students at Horizon Middle School in Spokane Valley will not come back to their school for nearly two years as an extensive remodeling project gets underway this month.
A groundbreaking ceremony to mark the start of the construction project was held last week during a few rain showers and Central Valley School District Superintendent Ben Small joked that it wouldn’t be a proper groundbreaking without rain.
Students will attend classes in the old University High School on Ninth Avenue for the next year and a half. The former school is now owned by Valley Christian, but a clause in the sale contract allows the school district to lease back a portion to house the students during construction.
The old high school has been named Horizon North and an open house was recently held so students could familiarize themselves with the school campus. The Horizon students will be in three of the buildings at the site and use a gym that is in the same building as Valley Christian’s gym.
Spring sports will be played at Horizon while construction is underway and students will be shuttled to Horizon from Horizon North after school and parents will pick them up from Horizon. Meals will be prepared off-site and transported to Horizon North every day.
Construction on the middle school on South Pines Road was originally slated to start this summer. “We’ve had to move the construction up a bit,” Small said. “We wanted to get back in in the fall of 2020.”
The project, estimated to cost $29.5 million, is being paid for by a construction bond approved by voters in early 2018. The size will increase by just over 8,700 square feet and the completely remodeled and expanded building will be able to house 600 students, an increase of 120 students.
A new entryway will be built on the south side of the building and there will be security upgrades throughout. Quite a few windows will be added to increase the natural light and new furniture will be purchased. The parking lot will also be upgraded to improve traffic flow. The general contractor for the project is LK Clark Construction.
The current building has been in use since 1982. Some sections of the exterior are peeling away, but there’s a lot more than cosmetic issues going on. Small said the building has “fairly substantial” HVAC problems and there are issues with the roof. “The building is getting tired,” he said.
The school looks a bit too much like a bunker and Small said he’s excited to be getting more windows and taking out the giant earthen berms on the south side of the building. “We want to establish a better learning environment,” he said. “We’re excited to get construction underway.”
Small said that schools have an important role in the community beyond educating students. Right after he arrived in Spokane the grounds of Horizon Middle School were put to use as a fire camp for firefighters battling a blaze in the Ponderosa area. “School buildings have a significant place in our community,” he said.
Horizon Principal Joshua Wolcott praised his staff for working tirelessly to move the school early and thanked the community for approving the project. “We’re excited for this day,” Wolcott said. “Thank you for overwhelmingly approving this as part of the bond.”
School board chairman Keith Clark said he was particularly excited to see improvements come to Horizon Middle School, which his children attended over a 20-year span. “Our family has been a member of this Horizon community for a long time,” he said.
Members of the school choir and band performed during the groundbreaking ceremony and shovels full of dirt were tossed. But doing a simple ceremonial dirt toss wasn’t enough for Small and Wolcott. Both clambered on top of one of the giant berms and got to work, enthusiastically raining down shovels full of dirt.
Small praised the students, staff and parents for their efforts to move the school across town and go on what he called an extended field trip.
“This will be an adventure for our students and staff and our parents to move to the old University High School, but the move will be worth it,” he said.
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