A new Lewiston High School at least 15 years in the making will open in late August — in the middle of a pandemic.
“It’s a bright spot in what’s otherwise a cloudy environment for education,” Lewiston school board chair Brad Rice said.
The new facility, on an 80-acre parcel in the Lewiston Orchards area, is actually two buildings: a 200,000-square-foot high school and a 40,000-square-foot professional technical education building called the Neil DeAtley Career Technical Education Center. The buildings were designed by Boise-based LKV Architects and RGU Architecture & Planning out of Asotin, Washington.
Students are expected in the building on August 26, but exactly how that will happen is still up in the air. The school board will vote Monday on reopening plans, superintendent Bob Donaldson said.
This building for the first time combines in one school students in grades 9-12, and the student body will be just under 1,400 kids Donaldson said.
Despite COVID, Donaldson says he sees the opening as “timely.”
He says the new facility allows students more space to spread out in classrooms and labs that are 900-1,600 square feet compared to the 600-square-foot classrooms in older buildings. Large career technical facilities and outdoor space give students more range as well, Donaldson said. The school board might decide to open the facility with a blended-learning model for going back to school, which would mean only half of the students would be in the large building at one time.
“I’m confident at some point we’re going to move past this,” Donaldson said. “I’d say timing of it is great, not only with the ability to spread kids out more but the instructional environments that will be super impactful for us being able to provide the very best instruction and education for our kids.”
Building the new high school took close to 20 years and four bond attempts.
The Lewiston School District acquired the Lewiston Orchards property in the early 2000’s, then failed to pass the bond needed to build the facility in 2004, 2010 and 2011. Voters passed the bond with overwhelming support in 2017.
Rice credits more transparency, community outreach efforts and a partnership with Lewis-Clark State College for making the difference in 2017. District officials held a series of “cottage” meetings to talk about the bond, gathering with groups of four or five voters in people’s living rooms. In all, Rice thinks district officials probably racked up 80 such meetings.
A draw of the new facility is that Lewis-Clark State College will be on-site, allowing Lewiston students easier access to develop career technical skills with the college and work toward associates or bachelors degrees while still in high school.
“Regionally I think it’s going to be a real gem, and quite frankly, I think it could be a solid model for the state and the pacific northwest for how we can leverage the physical proximity to the college, but more importantly, those relationships,” Rice said.
The ribbon-cutting ceremony for the new facility is Friday, Aug. 14, at 8 a.m. State Superintendent Sherri Ybarra, Gov. Brad Little and State Board of Education president Debbie Critchfield are expected to attend. The district is “strongly recommending'” face coverings and social distancing.
Small groups of 10 or fewer will be allowed to tour the facility on Friday and Saturday from 9-12 p.m.
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