Cheney Free Press -



From missiles to math books - Cheney School District dedicates new support site


John McCallum

The Cheney School District's Homeworks program has much more space in its new home at the Satellite and Support Services Site than its former location in the Fisher Building.

Theoretically, with a pair of good binoculars, on a clear day a person can see every school in the Cheney School District from the top of 2,884-foot Needham Hill.

The hill officially became the location to the district's Satellite and Support Services Site with a dedication ceremony last Wednesday, Aug. 20, prior to the school board's regular August meeting. The district purchased the site at 12414 S. Andrus Road in spring 2012 for $29,117 from the U.S. Air Force after an acquisition process that began not long after the former communication station was recommended for closure in 2005.

The complex on Needham Hill originally began life in 1955 as one of four area U.S. Army Nike/Ajax surface-to-air missile sites designed to protect Fairchild Air Force Base from manned bomber attack. The other three sites were near Medical Lake, Airway Heights and Deep Creek.

The sites were deactivated when the bomber threat was replaced by nuclear-armed intercontinental ballistic missiles, and the Army transferred the vacated sites in 1961 to the Air Force, which subsequently leased Needham Hill to the Washington National Guard. Renamed the Four Lakes Communication Station, Needham Hill served as home to five different Guard communications or tactical control units until it officially closed in 2009 at the recommendation the federal Base Realignment and Closure Commission.

The district's interest in Needham began after passage of a maintenance and operations levy in 2006, about $400,000 of which was designated to building a new warehouse enabling expansion of the district's food freezer space and other storage needs. The former communication site, with two large warehouses added by the Guard, more than fit the bill, and was purchased at a huge discount off its market value - estimated at $2 million - because the district planned to use it for educational purposes.

During a site tour last Wednesday, Cheney Superintendent Dr. Deb Clemens told the group that when she and others did an initial work through of the site, totaling 63 acres and approximately 60,000 square feet of building space, she wondered what they would do with the extra space.

"We have managed to fill it all and put it to good use," she said.

With the exception of the Information and Technology and Transportation departments, all district services have moved to Needham Hill. The Superintendent's Office occupies the former generator building, the mess hall is home to a conference center while Maintenance and Operations and Teaching and Learning occupy one of two former barracks.

Nutrition Services, along with the custodial supplies warehouse and carpenter shop, occupy one of the two Guard warehouses. The new facilities enabled the district to install a 16,000-cubic-foot, drive-in freezer for food storage.

The site also still contains the three missile launch bays. Each at one time housed 12 of the 35-foot Nike/Ajax missiles, totaling 10,000 square feet of underground space.

"We don't have a use for these facilities at this point," associate superintendent Sean Dotson told the tour group.


Nutrition Services director Brian Levy shows the district's new 16,000 cubic foot food freezer to people attending one of two site tours last Wednesday.

According to a 2012 Cheney Free Press story, the district also intended to move Three Springs High School and the Homeworks program from their homes at the Fisher Building to Needham Hill. Only the latter made the trip, with Three Springs relocated to two portables at Cheney High School. A new building for the alternative high school is included in the high school remodeling plans, scheduled for a bond vote in February 2015.

Besides the money from the 2006 levy, the district has also used additional funding from the 2010 middle school construction bond as well as savings realized from the construction of Cheney and Westwood middle schools and Snowdon Elementary School.

"We have spent $775,000 fixing up and remodeling the new administration site," district executive director of finance Kassidy Probert wrote in an email.

John McCallum can be reached at


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