It was a little late in the process, but the Sunnyside School District qualified for the additional footage funding needed for the eighth grade wing for Sierra Vista Middle School, the district's newest school now under construction near Washout Road.
The state originally held that Sunnyside schools had enough student enrollment for an additional 77,000 square feet of building space in the district.
For Sierra Vista, that meant enough room for sixth and seventh grades, but left it about 15,000 square feet shy for eighth grade.
After viewing the district's latest enrollment totals, the state revised its numbers last fall, nearly doubling it by another 67,000 feet this past December.
"The state shocked us all with that amount," said Dave Plesha, the district's finance director, who noted enrollment has increased by 100 students each of the past two years.
The additional footage allowed the district to prepare a bid package for the eighth grade wing. Sunnyside School Board members held a special meeting last Thursday to award the $3 million contract to Chervenell Construction of Kennewick.
Plesha said four companies attended a pre-bid meeting for Sierra Vista's eighth grade wing, but only Chervenell actually submitted a bid.
"Some of the guys backed off, we think, because the contractor (for Sierra Vista) has complete control of the school until it's finished," said Plesha.
About 15,000 of the additional square footage will be used for Sierra Vista's eighth grade wing.
That leaves 52,000 square feet available in building space. Plesha said the district is still weighing options, which include building a new elementary school, upgrading Washington Elementary, which was last renovated in 1985, or work on a bus garage.
In addition to building 28 classrooms for eighth graders, the bid awarded last week will fund a second gym for Sierra Vista, an all-weather track similar to that at the high school, as well as a baseball backstop, bleachers, player benches and chain link fencing.
Plesha said that while all classrooms are to be finished before September, the basketball court and outdoor track improvements may see work continue into this fall.
The eighth grade wing wraps up construction. Including the contract awarded last week, Sierra Vista will carry a price tag of about $15 million. Roughly 77 percent of that amount will be funded by the state and 23 percent by the Sunnyside School District.
The district's share for Sierra Vista, just over $3.5 million, will be paid from an $11 million bond voters approved in 2004.