District hosting meetings to involve public in planning for future of building
By BECKY THOMAS
In recent years, staff members at Cheney High School have changed the way they work to deal with the headaches.
Long lines at lunch? Add more people to swipe cards during the rush. Not enough room for students to sit in the cafeteria? Send the kids out in the halls to eat and monitor them. Not enough classrooms for all teachers to have a home base? Load your supplies onto a cart and teach a class in a colleague’s room during their prep time.
CHS principal Troy Heuett said the school’s staff has done a great job of dealing with growing issues of crowding in the high school.
“It’s not terrible,” Heuett said. “We could be more efficient.”
The telltale sign of a school overflowing its walls is a row of portable classrooms in the parking lot or nearby field. This year, the units are in the high school parking lot, moved from outside the old Cheney Middle School—now a parking area for one of two new bond-funded middle schools.
The seven portable classrooms are full, and district officials expect enrollment to continue growing. With the new middle schools and a new elementary currently under construction, leaders believe the lower grades will be adequately housed for many years to come. That leaves the high school, and discussions have already begun to create a plan to expand the school building at its current location.
The Cheney School Board will host a roundtable discussion with the community at the high school on Wednesday, Oct. 24. The meeting will begin at 5:30 p.m. and is open to everyone.
“People will have an opportunity to learn more about the needs at the high school,” Superintendent Deb Clemens said.
While the addition of portable classrooms has eased the need for classroom space, Clemens said a more obvious problem is crowding in common areas, which have not been expanded since the school was built. That fact is most apparent during lunchtime.
“We have students waiting in line for a long time to be served,” Clemens said. “They pretty much go anywhere in the building to find a place to eat.”
Newer schools are usually built with common areas that often double as cafeterias to maximize space. Clemens pointed to the common spaces in the new middle schools that serve as cafeteria, auditorium and as a place to meet up with friends before school.
“The high school students don’t really have that place to congregate,” Clemens said.
Many school leaders and teachers have expressed a desire to have a performing arts center. Currently, students perform concerts in the gym. Not only are the acoustics less than ideal, Clemens said, but gym classes are displaced during the day of a concert for setup.
The school, built in 1966, received a major renovation in 1994, connecting campus buildings and adding a classroom wing. Maintenance and Operations director Jeff McClure said the capacity of the building after the 1994 renovation was around 900 students. This fall, the high school had nearly 1,200 students.
The district is forming a renovation committee, mostly made up of department heads and teachers at the high school, Heuett said. The group will take a similar approach to that of the middle school design task force, which toured similar buildings, looked at different program options and worked with architects to design around instruction.
“If we do this, pass a bond eventually, these changes are going to affect a lot of people into the future,” Heuett said. “We have to think about what we want our programs to look like and how we can make it work for all our kids.”
The district has yet to set a timeline for seeking funding or for the actual construction. Clemens said next week’s meeting, and another planned for March, will give the community a chance to contribute to the planning.
The meeting Oct. 24 will also update patrons on the district’s school based health center at Sunset Elementary School, a new K-5 world language program and the Childhood Obesity Prevention initiative.
“We’re hoping for a nice turnout,” Clemens said.
Becky Thomas can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.