The Yuma Union High School District governing board heard an update on the master plan for a forthcoming high school in Somerton during their monthly meeting Wednesday.
Though most information on the school was previously presented during a joint work session with the City of Somerton at the end of March, updates on the status of state funding and infrastructure improvements were provided.
With Gov. Doug Ducey inking the state’s $11.8 million budget in late May, a proposed change to how the need for new schools is assessed has been set in stone.
The changes would see the state providing funding for new schools once the need is estimated to be two years out, with the money being provided the following summer. Currently, districts must reach the point where they need a new school before the funds are provided the next year.
This change moves up the timeline for the Somerton High School project, though it is not known by exactly how much.
Though she deferred to Superintendent Gina Thompson in terms of specifics, Carmen Wyckoff, an architect working for DLR Group on the school, said that “depending on how much the state gave them, it would allow for more building earlier on.”
During the work session in March, it was said that this change in the budget could double the amount of money available for the project.
YUHSD Board President Phil Townsend also urged people to call their state representatives during the meeting, saying “it’s amazing how few phone calls will really make them wake up.”
The first phase of the 250,000 square-foot plan would come in at 87,000 square-feet, and open to students sometime in 2022, after which construction would continue on the rest of the project. It would only be serving certain grade levels — how many will be determined by the exact amount of funding the district can gather together.
The first phase of the project includes three classroom buildings, a cafeteria and an administration building.
Wyckoff spoke Wednesday about the district's plan to include a levy for adjacent ways in their upcoming budget in order to make improvements to infrastructure surrounding the proposed high school.
During Wednesday’s update on the master plan, there was also talk about how infrastructure improvements would be handled.
The City of Somerton and YUHSD plan to enter into an intergovernmental agreement as a part of the joint construction project, which will also see the creation of a park covering dozens of acres adjacent to the planned school.
According to Bill Lukehart with Arcadis, a design firm working on the school, the City of Somerton plans to hold a work session on June 18 to discuss the agreement, which would work out how much each entity would pay for required infrastructure improvements for roads, sewers, irrigation, power and broadband.
“That’s important because, again, does the district pay for all the pumping station? Does it pay for part of it?” said Lukehart during Wednesday’s meeting. “How do all these (infrastructure) pieces get funded; who pays for them?
Thompson also reiterated a point made during March’s meeting Wednesday, saying that during the process of planning and building Somerton High School, the district will always put students’ needs first.
“We continue with continue with a mission that every student will be college, career (and) community prepared when they leave Yuma Union High School District,” she said. “But saying that and doing that are two very different worlds that requires a lot of people, that requires top notch facilities. It requires great leadership, and it requires a lot of work with the community.
“So in doing that we felt it was very necessary to continue to meet collaboratively with the City of Somerton, but always keep in mind our why. And that it’s not just to have a Somerton high school, but to have a knockout Somerton high school that meets the needs of the community.”