On Sept. 7 under blue skies, a crowd gathered in an empty field on the campus of Washington State University Vancouver. The location is the future site of the permanent home of Vancouver iTech Preparatory and the crowd was there to celebrate the beginning of construction of the new school.
Sharing in the celebration were parents and community members as well as representatives from Vancouver Public Schools, WSU Vancouver, LSW Architects and Robinson Construction. About 30 students from iTech Prep took time from their classes to participate in the ceremony. One of them was junior Fahad Hamad, who started at iTech in 2013 as a sixth-grader.
“I think it’s a great day, to be honest. Our school is starting to come true,” said Hamad.
Conversations with WSU Vancouver began 11 years ago when Superintendent Steve Webb approached then-Chancellor Hal Dengerink to partner with VPS in the vision of an early-college program. The program would prepare students for college and careers in the growing field of science, technology, engineering and mathematics. Clark College, Educational Service District 112 and the Southwest Washington STEM Network also supported the partnership.
“This is a great day. We’ve been working a on this for a long time,” said Chancellor Mel Netzhammer. “I’m so appreciative to my predecessor Hal Dengerink for his leadership in putting this concept together. I started in 2012 and one of the very first things I had to do was finalize the paperwork to embark on this grand experiment that was going to be half of a school in the Clark College building on the WSU Vancouver campus.”
Vancouver iTech Preparatory, a STEM magnet school for grades six through 12, opened in 2012 in two locations approximately 10 miles apart. Middle school students attend classes at the Jim Parsley Community Center and the high school program is located in the Clark College building at WSU Vancouver.
The new school is scheduled to open to high school students in January 2020. Middle school students will move into the campus for the start of school in fall 2020. The building is funded by a bond measure approved by voters in February 2017.