Sherwood School District breaks ground on new high school
Hardly a cloud was in the sky Tuesday morning as the Sherwood School District broke ground on the new Sherwood High School.
Construction for the new school — located on Southwest Elwert Road, between Kruger and Haide — will be funded by a 2016 bond measure, and will cost about $186 million. It is scheduled to open in the fall of 2020.
The groundbreaking ceremony included remarks from Superintendent Heather Cordie, Mayor Keith Mays, and School Board Chair Eric Campbell. As Mays pointed out in his speech, the last high school groundbreaking in Sherwood happened about 50 years ago, for the existing Sherwood High on Meinecke Road. In the late 1960s, the district was facing crowding issues — much as it is today.
"The Sherwood community rallied behind the school district, and a new high school was built on the edge of town, with only a small neighborhood loosely connected on the corner of it," Mays said. "Sounds a bit familiar to what we have today."
In her remarks, Cordie recalled that leading up to the 2016 election, the Sherwood School District hosted community forums to come up with ideas to solve the district's crowding issues.
"It was from those very community forums that the 'go big' approach to those enrollment and capacity challenges arose," she said.
Incoming student body president Shaurya Gaur, who also spoke at the ceremony, was on Cordie's student advisory committee at the time. He remembered that she presented the team with three possibilities for tacking the issue. Two of the options included improving and expanding existing campuses.
"The third one," Gaur said, "was interesting." That was the plan for the new high school.
Gaur shared his firsthand experience of dealing with crowding at the current Sherwood High with a joke: "If I had to describe Sherwood High School in one word, it would probably be 'traffic.'"
With a total potential capacity of 2,400 students — about 1,700 are enrolled at the existing high school — the new high school should ease the traffic and crowding concerns.
Campbell, the School Board Chair, said that he was proud of the district for maintaining a "single, dedicated focus to do what's best for kids" while planning the new high school. He said that it would be a "hundred year school" designed to last the district well into the future, and made one crucial promise:
"It's going to be delivered on time and on budget."
Whether or not the new school is finished on time, most current Sherwood high schoolers will never attend it. Gaur said that the Class of 2021 — freshmen this recent school year — were currently the envy of the rest of Sherwood High, as they will be seniors when the new high school is scheduled to open in 2020.
Though the new school is by far the largest project associated with the 2016 school bond measure, Campbell stressed that the bond is "much more than just a high school." It also provided funding for added security measures and new technology in existing schools, and for improved curriculum.
When the new Sherwood High opens, the current high school will become the district's only middle school, and the two existing middle schools will serve as additional elementary schools. Gaur said he was glad the district still will have only one high school, as it "keeps our community unified."
In his remarks, Mays thanked his fellow City Council members for attending the groundbreaking. He also thanked the city's planning department for helping to expedite the process — including fast-tracking the land use permit — and referred to a "renewed and special partnership between the city and school district."
Crowding concerns in the school district were a major factor in the City Council choosing not to submit an urban growth boundary expansion request to the Metro Council this year.
The groundbreaking ceremony also included performances from the Sherwood High School Drumline and the Mixolydians, the school's a cappella group. The young singers and musicians joined district officials, Mayor Mays and others in shoveling dirt as part of the new school's ceremonial groundbreaking.