“This building represents who we are, creativity, innovation, openness, collaboration and a new perspective,” said high school junior Emily Boatright, in the main hall of the new iTech Preparatory campus. “From our open ceilings where students can see how the building works to open windows where all students can demonstrate their learning. iTech is home.”
Vancouver Public Schools (VPS) celebrated the dedication and official grand opening of their newest addition the evening of Feb. 20; a project-based STEM magnet school, iTech Preparatory. The more than 80,000-square-foot building on Washington State University’s Vancouver campus will bring together middle and high school students from the existing locations on the campus and at the Jim Parsley Center.
“Thinking back to eight years ago when we opened our doors, and we welcomed 210 sixth, seventh and ninth graders, I remember the excitement and anticipation that everyone had,” said iTech Principal Darby Meade. “We shared a sense that what we were doing was special, different important work.”
LSW Architects and Robinson Construction designed and began building the three-story building beginning in September of 2018 after VPS passed its $458 million bond measure in 2017 by more than 69%. iTech Prep is the second school to be constructed with funds from the measure.
“As we developed iTech, we discovered plenty of reasons not to create this school. They included the challenges of working with a higher education system to build the district dome facility on this university campus, operating a school in the attendance area of another district, starting a program with middle and high school students on two separate sites,” said VPS Deputy Superintendent Mike Stromme. “But we didn’t back away because we were convinced that the iTech vision was the right thing to do for today’s and tomorrow’s students.”
In attendance for the ribbon cutting ceremony on Feb. 20, was Washington Gov. Jay Inslee. The governor had the opportunity to speak to the school’s staff, students and their families, before having the privilege of cutting the ribbon.
“I can officially say the coolest thing going on in the state of Washington today is iTech and I’m happy to be here with you,” Inslee said. “The vision statement of the people who we really want to thank tonight, and that’s the citizens who are ponying up to make this incredible investment in their kids’ future. It’s the taxpayers of this community who realized that the futures of their children were incredibly bold, if we could provide them this technical education to get them started.”
iTech Prep features 23 classrooms, including several state-of-the-art laboratories, an upstairs gym room and an indoor turf soccer field. The school opened to students last month, and has been operating at capacity. Ever since the first iTech class graduated in 2016, the school has maintained a 100% graduation rate.
Students who attend iTech are selected through a lottery-based application process. This ensures equal opportunity to a wide range of students in the community, said Oliver Jessup, an iTech junior.
“We collaborate to invent new things, build upon and innovate ideas and inspire our fellow students of all grades,” Jessup said. “(Our) school system gives equal opportunity to a variety of students which provides our school with a diversity of both backgrounds and ideas.”
After the ribbon cutting, guests were invited to tour the new facility with student guides. Everything from robots, to longboards, to strange history, to virtual and augmented reality, to fitness, to university-grade science laboratories, is part of the iTech facility. VPS board members shared their belief that new and equipped public schools like iTech are the foundation of healthy communities.
“At VPS, we are so incredibly grateful to be working with and serving a community, which understands and prioritizes that core principle,” said VPS School Board President Wendy Smith. “Because of you, our families, our students, our staff, our partners, neighbors and voters, because of you and your willingness to invest in the future of our students, that is why we are able to celebrate this glorious place of learning tonight.”
For more information about iTech Preparatory and the programs offered there, visit itech.vansd.org.
Jacob Granneman is a staff reporter for ClarkCountyToday.com. This article first appeared on the ClarkCountyToday website.