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There are numerous factors that impact the success and academic performance of high school students, but one factor that is often overlooked is the impact of a student’s commute to and from school. For many students across the U.S., school is just a few minutes’ drive or even a walk or bike ride away from home, but for some, getting to school means a lengthy commute each way. Time-consuming commutes limit students’ ability to participate in important extracurricular activities, such as clubs and sports, and take up time that could otherwise be spent studying or working an after-school job. Students who commute also receive less sleep and exercise on average, and for students who rely upon bus schedules, missing the bus could mean missing a day of school.
Access to a local high school can greatly impact a student’s academic success and development, but for students living in Somerton, Arizona, this has presented a challenge. Somerton is one of the fastest-growing cities in the state that currently does not have its own high school, and as a result, most students in the area must take the bus to other schools up to an hour away. To provide students with a local school in their own community, Yuma Union High School District (YUHSD) has partnered with Arcadis to build Somerton High School.
Since 2015, Arcadis has been working with the Yuma Union High School District on a capital expansion program to develop many projects, including the new Somerton High School. For the school, Arcadis has provided agency construction management and program management and utilized alternative delivery methods for construction, including the construction manager at risk process, to bring the project team together at the start of design and to accelerate cost certainty and project completion.
From the start of the project, Arcadis staff was embedded with the YUHSD team as a trusted advisor. Working closely together and with full transparency, the team was able to provide recommendations directly to district board members and make real-time decisions regarding budgets, resource availability and cost increases due to unexpected occurrences like COVID-19, which allowed them to identify and solve problems before they occurred.
With a projected open date of August 2023, the school has four main buildings: Administration, Cafeteria, Gymnasium and Wrestling. There are 39 classrooms, eight labs, two art studios, a welding studio, choir and band rooms, five Career Technical Education (CTE) classrooms and three self-contained special education classrooms. Additionally, the school has staff and parent parking with overflow event parking. Athletic amenities include the auxiliary gymnasium, wrestling room, weight room, athletic training, football/soccer field, tennis courts, baseball field and softball field.
Somerton-area students, who were previously bussed up to an hour to school each way, will now have a convenient and safe local high school to call their own. With the time they’ll save from a shortened commute, they can explore diverse careers through the CTE program, focus on their studies, and participate in after-school activities including athletics and music. With the addition of the school, there is a strong sense of pride and passion in the community.