Western Center Academy in Hemet boasts a new expanded campus

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Western Center Academy math teacher Megan Marriott opens the door to her new classroom on the expanded charter school campus at 2345 Searl Parkway in Hemet. Classes are opening Monday, Aug. 12. Tony Ault photo

Western Center Academy students arrived this week to an expanded campus with the latest in classroom technology and laboratories with its construction recently completed by Bogh Engineering.

Hemet Unified School District administrators, city officials, Western Science Center and Museum scientists and guests attended the expanded campus’s official ribbon-cutting ceremony at 2345 Searl Parkway in Hemet Friday morning, Aug. 9. The Western Center Academy, which opened 10 years ago, is a dependent charter school and a part of the Hemet Unified School District.

As a result of the school’s past growth in both the number of students attending and the grades offered, the need for additional classrooms became apparent. The Western Science Center partnered with the Western Center Academy and the Hemet Unified School District to build an expanded campus to accommodate that growth.

The $4 million expanded campus includes new custom and permanent classrooms that anticipate further development of the academy’s programs with a new administration building planned in the future. The Metropolitan Water District made the museum and the school possible, following the construction of the Diamond Valley Reservoir where thousands of mastodon fossils were found and donated to the museum constructed on their property to house and study ice age relics.

“WCA is so very excited to open our expanded campus at the Western Science Center,” Paul Bailey, principal of the Western Center Academy, said. “This has been an ongoing collaborative effort with Hemet Unified School District and the Western Science Center that is coming together just in time for the start of our 10th year. We greatly appreciate the support for our innovative program and look forward to another wonderful year.”

Bailey said he was proud of the teachers and students at the STEM – science, technology, engineering and mathematics – school that is the U.S. News and World Report ranked No. 77 high school and No. 16 charter high school in the nation, as well as a National Blue Ribbon recipient in 2017.

“The partnership between the Western Science Center and the Western Center Academy has allowed both organizations to reach amazing heights in a short period of time,” Alton Dooley, Ph.D., executive director of the Western Science Center, said, who also attended the ribbon-cutting. “We’re excited for the opening of the expanded campus, which will serve to strengthen those ties and lead to greater successes in the future.”

Chuck Washington, 3rd District supervisor of Riverside County, offered his congratulations to the opening of the expanded campus and presented Bailey with a certificate of congratulations from the county board.

The partnership, which also offers unique opportunities to WCA students interested in conducting scientific research and volunteering at the next door natural history museum home of one of the largest collections of mastodon fossils in the world.

A tour of the new campus classrooms followed the ribbon-cutting that also honored the founders of the WCA including Eric and Gisela Gosch and other community leaders who have offered their service and monetary support through its history. The contractor Russ Bogh was also honored for his record time construction of the expanded campus buildings.

Taking the tour with WCA assistant principal Michael Horton were members of the media and HUSD assistant superintendent of student services Karen Valdes. Mathematics teacher Heather Nelson readying her classroom for the students arriving Monday, Aug. 12, said she was thrilled with the new classroom.

Horton showed the new “esports” classroom designed with gaming computers the students can use to learn programming and other technical computer skills in demand in today’s job market. Other classrooms have 3D printers, a video recording studio and other tech marvels coming onto the market, WSA students can join the Western Science Center scientists and volunteers helping with their fossil studies at the museum.

Tony Ault can be reached at tault@reedermedia.com.