Denisa Kraynick, center, overturns a shovel full of dirt during the groundbreaking at West Salem High School on Friday, May 28, 2021. (Amanda Loman/Salem Reporter)

Salem’s newest high school will be expanded starting this summer with a $34.5 million construction project to add more classrooms and space for career technical education programs.

West Salem High School is the final of six Salem-Keizer School District high schools to undergo renovation as part of a $620 million construction package voters approved in 2018.

At a groundbreaking ceremony Friday, school leaders and students said the expansion would improve science education and give the school’s award-winning music program more space to practice in.

The expansion will allow West to have more students in its fire science and emergency medical technician programs. A new three-story classroom wing will include more space for those programs and special education classrooms.

The school has a fire tower on the back of campus where students can practice rescuing victims, but will now be able to bring its fire truck on campus through bay doors that will be added to the new classroom wing.

The truck is currently stored at the district bus lot.

“What we’re essentially going to be able to have is our own fire station,” said Nichole Spearman-Eskelson, career technical education program coordinator for the district.

The robotics and computer program classes can also expand, and West will have space to add a new career program. Spearman-Eskelson said the district is considering a viticulture program.

The expansion includes 20 new classrooms and two science labs, incoming principal Carlos Ruiz said. Ruiz comes to West after serving as an assistant principal at North Salem High School, which underwent a significant expansion during his time there.

“We’re going to have some challenges that will inconvenience us, but it’s going to be worth it,” he said.

The school will add a new parking lot using land purchased for the expansion in 2019. The $500,000 purchase of an adjacent lot on Doakes Ferry Road drew negative comments from some community members, who felt spending additional money on the district’s newest school was inequitable.

First built in 2002, West is the least crowded of the district’s high schools. As of early May, the school had about 1,600 students enrolled, under its capacity of 1,750. With the expansions, West will be able to hold about 2,100 students.

The construction package was designed to alleviate overcrowding at many district schools, but also to expand career technical education programs. West and Sprague High School were the last to see improvements and are getting the smallest projects in part because they were less crowded than other district high schools.

Both schools will begin construction this summer and finish in the fall of 2022. Expansions at McKay and South Salem high schools are scheduled to finish this fall.

North Salem and McNary high school expansions were completed last fall.

At $34.5 million, West’s expansion is the least expensive of the six. North Salem High School’s renovation cost about $73.5 million, and McKay’s is budgeted for about $57 million.

Students at West said they were excited about adding more space to the school commons, where many students eat lunch, as well as new classrooms.

“With new classrooms modernized science labs and new programs, these changes are going to make such a significant impact on improving student learning,” said senior Denisa Kraynick, speaking at the groundbreaking ceremony. “My excitement has only increased for all the future Titans and current Titans.”

A mock-up of the new West Salem High School facility on Friday, May 28, 2021. (Amanda Loman/Salem Reporter)

Osmar Solares, a student at West Salem High School, speaks during the groundbreaking on Friday, May 28, 2021. (Amanda Loman/Salem Reporter)

Contact reporter Rachel Alexander: [email protected] or 503-575-1241.

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