School districts preparing for major projects

This is a dramatic era for the area’s school systems, as voters previously agreed to provide money for extensive projects in the Enumclaw, Sumner, White River and Carbonado districts. While some of the work is still in the planning stage, other projects have been clicking along.

6/19/2017 CORRECTION:

A story about local school district projects (Courier-Herald, June 14) included an error. The Sumner School District expects to begin construction this summer on a replacement building at Emerald Hills Elementary and a new elementary serving the Tehaleh community. An Early Learning Center is in the permitting phase. The online story has been updated.


The current school year is just now winding down, but it’s not too early to consider what’s in store for teachers and students when they head back to their classrooms in the fall.

This is a dramatic era for the area’s school systems, as voters previously agreed to provide money for extensive projects in the Enumclaw, Sumner, White River and Carbonado districts. While some of the work is still in the planning stage, other projects have been clicking along.

Here’s a look at what should be taking place during the summer.


After spending the entire 2016-17 school year commuting south to the J.J. Smith campus in Enumclaw, Black Diamond’s elementary-age students will enter a new building in the fall.

Finishing touches will come this summer on the 51,725-square-foot facility that includes 19 general classrooms, an art room, library, resource room, music stage and what the district terms “flexible learning spaces.” Additionally, a multipurpose room and the school gymnasium will be used by students during the day and available for community purposes during evening hours.

After district voters approved the bond measure, one of the first steps was demolition of the one-story elementary school that had been part of the community since 1962. It totaled about 30,000 square feet and the original structure had seen additions in 2002. By 2015, demand had outgrown the available space, with about 40 percent of the school’s students housed in portable buildings on the school grounds.

On the campus of Enumclaw High School, all have grown accustomed to the sights and sounds of heavy construction – and that’s not about to change. Work will continue through the summer and greet students, faculty and staff when they return to school in the fall.

It’s all part of a three-phase construction plan that began in the summer of 2016 and is slated for completion in winter of 2019. When everything is finished, EHS will have an additional 122,000 square feet of space, consisting of classrooms, a new library, science labs and more. Work is primarily on the south side of campus, with the exception of the 1000 wing on the north side.

Crews have already torn down the 100, 200 and 300 buildings and, with new construction, the heart of campus will emerge as a two-story structure.

Until that happens, students will use portable classrooms on campus and music students will continue hoofing it across McDougall Avenue to use facilities at Enumclaw Middle School. Renovation of the Chuck Smith Gymnasium should be completed during the fall or early winter.


The biggest impact will be on students and staff at Wilkeson Elementary School, who will be absent from their historic building for the 2017-18 academic year.

As the formidable sandstone structure is renovated and expanded — while keeping its historic standing intact — education will take place in the former White River Middle School building on 120th — a campus more recently known as the White River Educational Service Center.

Work on the existing portion of the Wilkeson building will consist of remodeling the interior as well as updating mechanical, electrical and plumbing systems. A new addition to replace the existing kitchen and multipurpose rooms, as well as additional classroom space, will all be part of the project. A new building entry aims to provide better security and convenience.

Also beginning this summer is Phase I of the Elk Ridge Elementary School project, which will feature a new, two-story wing added to the northwest side of the campus. The cafeteria, gym and administration offices will remain operational during this phase and students will stay on campus. Assistant Superintendent Mike Hagadone said summer plans are still being finalized, but the bidding process has not started.

Phase I work should be completed by spring 2018, he said.

A second phase, beginning a year from now, will include modernization the existing building and add a new play area and entry plaza. Everything is slated to be done by the spring of 2019.

To be completed during the next few months is a significant upgrade to the athletic facilities at White River High.

The stadium on the back side of the campus was initially something of a bare-bones effort, as financial constraints prohibited extensive work. The project now under way and will be completed for the beginning of the fall sports season.

Athletic Director Chris Gibson reports that activity will really pick up in July when all the materials for the covered grandstands arrives on campus and assembly begins.

Improvements will be visible before Hornet fans enter the stadium, as a gravel parking lot is due for paving. They will enter through a new ticket gate and head into new, covered grandstands. Under the stands will be a new concession stand and new restrooms, along with a storage area, a training room and a team room.


Citing a need to accommodate perhaps 2,000 more students during the next decade – courtesy of its ranking as the fastest-growing school district in the county – Sumner has three key projects making headway this summer.

Getting close to the construction phase are a Valley Early Learning Center, being built on the campus of Sumner Middle School; a new elementary school to primarily serve the ever-expanding Tehaleh development; and the replacement of Emerald Hills Elementary School. All three involve a long construction season and are to be completed by fall 2018. The ELC has a projected price tag of $19.2 million and the elementary school projects have been estimated at $28 million each.

District spokeswoman Sarah Gillispie said construction on both the new elementary school in Tehaleh and Emerald Hills Elementary are expected to begin by September. The ELC is in the final permitting phase.

Also on the way, but not beginning during the summer, is a $14.6 million project that will deliver a performing arts center to empty space on the campus of Bonney Lake High School.

Summer work is planned at BLHS and will entail interior improvements.


Voters were asked to direct $1.75 million the district’s way. Among other things, the money will pay for increased classroom capacity; modernization, upgrading and replacement of portions of the historical main school building; and the upgrading of four classrooms to make the accessible for STEM instruction.

Plans also call for removal of a concrete ramp that extends across the front of the school and its awning. That would return the school to its original look. Inside, ambitious plans call for dropping the auditorium floor/basketball court by several feet, making it accessible to all.

Superintendent Scott Hubbard said this summer will include much of the preliminary work, with actual construction commencing in the fall. Students will be in the historical building during the beginning of the work, but will be moved into portable classrooms probably by October. The work should be completed by the fall of 2018, Hubbard said.

Added to the original plan is the demolition of three houses directly behind the school. They have long been owned by the district, originally offered to help retain teachers; one was offered for the superintendent’s use. That changed about 40 years ago, Hubbard said, and the district has used the homes for rental income.

Demolition of the houses will provided additional parking at the school.


Enumclaw was the first district out of the gate, putting a bond measure before voters in the spring of 2015. Approved was a request for about $68 million; combined with a state contribution, the district’s entire construction package is expected to total about $86 million.

The Sumner, White River and Carbonado districts received voter approval of bond measures in February 2016. In Sumner, voters authorized a request for $145.6 million; in White River, the total was nearly $99 million; and voters in the small Carbonado district gave their blessing to a $1.75 million request.