SPANAWAY, Wash.— Voters in the Bethel School District in Pierce County passed a bond in February 2019 that will allow three new schools to be built and renovations for many others. It was the first bond to pass for the district since 2006. We checked in with the district in August to see how the construction and planning is coming along.
A sign sits on an empty field in Graham at 224th Street E. and 70th Ave. E. that reads “Future Home to Bethel High School.” Although no construction has begun, the district says the school is expected to open in 2023. The current Bethel High School, just a few minutes down the road from the future school, opened in 1952.
“From what I’ve seen as far as the plans, they’re going to be amazed at how good the building is. The awe factor is going to be really a great way to celebrate our kids and the community,” said Superintendent Tom Seigel.
The superintendent says 1,000 students have moved to the area in just the last two years. According to the district, they enroll over 2,000 more students than its buildings were designed to accommodate and use over 200 portable classrooms. The superintendent says even when the new schools open, they will be at capacity.
“We’re just out of space. When I got here in 2001, we had about 14,500 students. We have over 20,000 students now. This is a growth area. It’s going to continue to be a growth area because it’s a place you can find housing that’s affordable and commute to Tacoma or Seattle,” said Seigel.
In addition to the new high school, the bond will fund two new elementary schools.
“The elementary schools are going to be much larger than we’ve built ever. We’ve built schools for 500 to 550 kids. These are going to be designed for 700,” said Seigel.
One of those schools, located on Waller Road, is expected to open in the Fall of 2021. The other, possibly located in the Lipoma Firs community, will open in 2027.
The bond will also allow the district to renovate and expand six other schools. That includes building a permanent building at Challenger Alternative High School. The nearly 50-year-old campus has only ever been made up of portable classrooms.
“The physical conditions of the building really have been deteriorating and it’s so overcrowded they actually have a waiting list at this high school,” said Seigel.
Phase one of the renovations at Challenger are already underway and is funded by operating money. It will open this winter. Phase two, funded by the bond, will open in 2022.
To learn more about the construction and bond projects in the district, visit the district’s website here.