DOUGLAS — A groundbreaking ceremony for a 87,502-square-foot addition was held Friday at Douglas High School.

The project, which will cost about $27 million, is scheduled to start in September and be completed by next August. The addition will include a new cafeteria, a commons area where students will be able to socialize and gather in a new and upgraded facility, a counseling department where there will be privacy for students, 16 multipurpose and multiple science classrooms with lab space to focus on STEAM (science, technology, engineering, the arts and mathematics) and an innovative area for DHS’ exceptional students with special needs. There will be multiple areas to increase and upgrade the CTE (career and technical education) programs and a new state of the art for a performing arts program, to include a new space for the athletic and physical ed department which will feature a state-of-art weights and athletics facility.

Cesar Soto, DUSD’s chief financial and operations officer, said 100 percent of the funding for the project is coming from the school facilities board.

“This is being done at no cost to the taxpayers,” he added.

“This is an exciting event; one we’ve been waiting for a long time,” Ana Samaniego, DUSD superintendent, said in her remarks at the groundbreaking. “Remembering the past is easy and often inexpensive, but planning for the future is often hard work and requires focus, cooperation and even financial commitment. So here we are today investing in our student’s future.”

Samaniego made it a point to thank to Gov. Doug Ducey, the state legislature, Sen. David Gowan and the School Facilities Board for their help in including the construction cost factor in the 2021 Budget Bill HB 2898. She also acknowledged the city government for working with the architects in establishing all the permit guidelines and fees needed to move the project forward, as well as everyone involved in the planning committee from community members, staff and students.

“We have spent countless hours planning and jumped through hurdles to get to this point,” Samaniego said. “This groundbreaking event is symbolic of our state government’s commitment to educational excellence for every child and marks the beginning of a new era in how we educate our high school students in Douglas. This is a celebration of student learning with highly visible instructional spaces and framed by an instruction model where our students construct greater meaning from their learning by connecting content. Project- and problem-based teaching and learning will prepare our students for a stronger post-secondary experience than ever before. Preparing our students for the rest of their lives has never been more exciting than right now.”

Samaniego said it brings her great joy knowing that this will be a place where our children will have the tools to realize their dreams and potential, and the focus will be on enhancing STEAM and CTE education through rich content and innovative hands-on and minds-on activities.

“The new high school addition will be a game changer in how we educate children and will make Douglas High School more appealing for families for decades to come,” she said. “We are so much more than this building itself — we are about all of us — our students, our staff, our teaching and learning. Thank you again for making this opportunity possible because our Douglas High School students also deserve the very best education despite the location of their school. Their future also matters.”

“Our students deserve this,” Douglas Mayor Donald Huish said. “The community deserves this and as a proud Bulldog from the class of 1977, I couldn’t be more happy to see this as part of our educational footprint here in Douglas.

“Many times when we visit with companies wanting to come to Douglas one of the things they ask about is our school districts. I’m happy to report that’s one thing I don’t have to worry about. There are some other areas I have some concerns about, but the school district is not one of them. On behalf of the council and all our staff at the city of Douglas, we’re grateful to be a small part of this project.”

DHS Principal Melissa Rodriguez, a DHS grad, said this event is like a rebirth after such a challenging year.

“Our students and future students will have new opportunities through the start of the art learning spaces and resources,” she said. “As our school continues to grow, we will soon have the space to bring in more students to benefit from the wonderful programs and courses here at Douglas High School. We must now eagerly await the completion of this project to celebrate this joyous occasion.”

“This is a great, great day,” DUSD Board President Ray Borane stated in his closing remarks. “It’s amazing we’ve got the cooperation and have had the cooperation from the School Facilities Board. The ultimate goal is the education of our students. They’re what we’re all about and why we’re here.”

The Douglas High School on 15th Street was built in 1949, relocating from where it had been previously, which is now Ray Borane Middle School on 12th Street. Former Douglas Mayor Dr. Mike Gomez was part of the first graduating class from the school on 15th Street in 1950. His brother, Dr. Ed Gomez, graduated from there in 1959.