Temperatures that hovered just above freezing didn’t stop hundreds of students, teachers and local officials from gathering outside Tuesday morning to celebrate the groundbreaking of the new Shaw Middle School in northeast Spokane.
The ceremony was held on a grass field just east of the existing Shaw school building and included a color guard from Rogers High School, a Pledge of Allegiance and speeches from dignitaries representing the city and Spokane Public Schools.
Also on the scene were 20 ceremonial shovels – more pomp to match the unique circumstance: It’s the largest city-school partnership in Spokane history, with almost 200,000 square feet devoted to Shaw, the On Track Academy and a new Hillyard Library.
Next week, the dirt will be turned by big machines owned by Lydig Constriction. One excavator was already on hand.
Almost a year after Spokane voters approved $575 million in school and library bonds, those 20 shovels were turned toward a project that Mayor David Condon calls the cornerstone for a “safer, smarter, healthier community.”
Most of Shaw’s current group of about 700 students won’t be around to enjoy the new digs when they open in the fall of 2021, but City Council President Ben Stuckart said the project will pay dividends far into the future.
He called the partnership “critical to all of us moving forward in instilling the values of lifelong learning, which is critical to breaking the cycle of poverty and reducing inequality in our community and improving all of our quality of lives.”
“These kids come to school every day and work super hard,” Stuckart said. He also urged students to “thank your parents because of their commitment” to supporting education by passing the bond.
For Spokane Public Schools, that amounted to $495 million, about three-quarters of which is earmarked for replacing Shaw, Glover and Sacajawea middle schools and adding three new buildings as the district moves sixth-graders into junior highs.
On Tuesday, they were represented by the sixth-graders from Regal Elementary School. As they sat front and center on a giant green tarp, school board member Brian Newberry offered a challenge, along with the promise of a brand-new building.
“I’m excited,” Newberry said as he surveyed the sixth-graders. “Better days are ahead because of this groundbreaking here today.”
“We’re really here to celebrate this community standing behind us. … We believe in you, you’re going to lead this school and this community.”
“It’s a good day to be in Spokane,” Newberry said.
More good days are ahead at other city schools. Another groundbreaking is scheduled for Oct. 10 at Glover Middle School, where a replacement is on the same timeline as the Shaw project.
The Shaw project includes a 135,000-square-foot middle school building, a 40,000 square-foot building at the nearby On Track Academy and 14,000 square feet for the library.
The total cost will be more than $100 million, with funding for Shaw coming from both the 2015 and 2018 bonds.
Money for the On Track portion is from the 2018 bond, while the new library is funded from a $77 million library bond approved last year.
Other projects will follow. In the next few months the district will select architectural firms for new middle schools in northwest and northeast Spokane, with completion set for the summer of 2022.
Sacajawea and South Middle Schools will follow, with work set to be completed in summer 2023.
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