$1.6 million grant to improve Kettle Falls STEM classrooms

S-E Staff Reporter

The Kettle Falls School District is in the process of a STEM classroom renovation project, made possible by a $1.6 million grant.

Washington STEM is a statewide nonprofit that advances science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) education.

In partnership with Washington’s Office of Superintendent of Public Instruction (OSPI), Washington STEM awarded $4 million in grants statewide to schools, school districts, educational service districts and other higher education institutions to support computer science education.

Grant recipients were required to partner with private organizations and individuals to receive a 1:1 match, effectively doubling the state’s investment.

Less than a year ago, Superintendent Thaynan Knowlton and former Kettle Falls High School Principal Jim Hill went to local businesses pitching the idea of the Washington STEM grant. For the match, they needed to raise $100,000.

Thanks to the support of local industry, Kettle Falls School District was one of six educational organizations in the state to receive this highly competitive grant.

Big dreams

Before the winners were ever announced, Kettle Falls High School teachers discussed their dream facility. They talked about what it would look like, what equipment it would have and what curriculum students would be able to learn in their classrooms.

This is Curtis Corvino’s first year as KFHS’s principal. Since September, Corvino and the high school STEM teachers have worked together to plan this dream facility.

To explore possibilities, they visited other educational institutions like Riverpoint Academy, Spokane Valley Tech school, North Central High School and NEWTECH Skill Center.

They picked what they liked from the other schools and discussed how to incorporate those aspects into their school.

According to Corvino, the vocational committee working on the project went through five different floor plans with the district’s architect, James Cortner of Cortner Architectural Company.

Brian Golphenee, Career and Technical Education Director for the KFSD, said the goal of upgrading the facility is to “have kids stay here.”

The district wants students to go to college and then come back to Kettle Falls and the surrounding area because of what they learned.


Over the last week, Cortner and the KFSD have worked on the floor plan. The next step in the project will be to get the engineering team on board with the plan.

Over the next several weeks, Cortner said time will be spent on construction documents.

The district’s goal is to have the project out to bid mid-to-late January and have it awarded in February.

“We’ve got a lot of work to do and a very condensed period of time to do it,” admitted Cortner. “It’s an aggressive schedule, but I think we can do it.”

There is work on the high school that a contractor could start while school is still in session, which Cortner said he’d like to see done from March to May. That way, when school lets out in June, the contractors can begin work on the second floor.

Cortner and the KFSD want the project completed before students return in September.

As of now, the construction budget is approximately $805,000.

Superintendent Knowlton said the reason KFSD won the grant is because of their business partners.

“We did that part better than most of the other districts that applied for this grant,” Knowlton said, adding that the input they’ve received from industry partners will make the facility improvements all the more better.

Knowlton said the KFSD already has fantastic teachers who are top of the line, but these teachers have been working in an old building.

“To have great teachers and great kids but an old facility, we’re just missing part of that puzzle,” Knowlton said. “But now we get the high-tech facilities.

“That’s going to be so great.”

Read about the improvements in the Dec. 7 edition of the Statesman-Examiner.