Thursday, September 7, 2006
The doors opened this week on the new Sierra Vista Middle School, but the Sunnyside School District is already planning for a new elementary school.
The district recently filed paperwork with the state to get the ball rolling on a new school, which does not yet have a name.
Assistant Superintendent Dave Plesha confirmed that the new school will be situated just north of Sierra Vista. He said water and sewer utility lines have already been plumbed to the site during construction on nearby Sierra Vista.
Thoughts on a new elementary school started last fall, Plesha said, when new student enrollment figures showed that Sunnyside could have up to 52,000 square feet of new building space funded by the state. That's after footage was deducted for construction of Sierra Vista's eighth grade wing.
By October 2007, the district is hopeful the square footage will top 70,000, based on projected increases in student enrollment.
Plesha said the square footage the state will fund is determined by the number of students in the district. In Sunnyside, district enrollment has climbed by about 100 students per year over the past decade and now tops 5,600. Over the next four or five years, it is expected to top 6,000.
The state will fund 84 percent of the cost towards a new school, with Sunnyside kicking in the rest out of capital funds. Plesha said the capital funds grow by $825,00 each year from money the district receives for levy equalization.
Plesha said the momentum for building a new school is two-fold.
First, Washington Elementary School is due for a major upgrade in a few years, which, too, will receive 84 percent of its construction funding from the state.
Plesha said the work-which will include a new roof, boiler, library expansion and cabinetry-will require closing Washington Elementary for a year.
With a new school building in place, Washington students could study there for that year rather than the district resorting to double shifts or farming classes out to other sites within the city.
Secondly, school buildings in the district are at capacity and the district utilizes 47 portable classrooms to meet student enrollment. Some of those, he said, are to the point they need to be torn down.
Plesha said a proposed timeline calls for construction on the new elementary school to begin in August 2007, with the school's doors to open in August 2008. The upgrades at Washington will take place after the new school building opens.
With the district's growing enrollment, and stated needs for building expansion, Plesha said the new school will sit on 80 acres next to Sierra Vista.
After the elementary school is built, Plesha said there will be enough land at the site to build two additional schools to meet the district's future growth needs.
Also in the future, Plesha said the district is looking at improving the high school building.