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February 6, 2017

Westgate Elementary alumni proud to be part of school's future

Architect Doug Mitchell and contractor Gary Chervenell strolled the halls of the old Westgate Elementary on 4th Avenue before it was demolished to make way for a new school.

“It seemed a lot smaller than I remembered,” says Mitchell of the old building. “But I guess everything does once you’ve grown up.”

Both men attended Westgate for at least part of their education and they have fond memories of the elementary school and the students and staff they knew during their time there. Now they are excited to be a part of the school’s next chapter and continuing its tradition as a great place to learn.

“I really wanted this job because it was my alma mater,” Chervenell says. “I want the kids who attend Westgate to be as proud of their school as I was when I was a student.”

Crews have worked at the Westgate site since the end of the 2014-15 school year, demolishing the building and then building on top of where it was located. MMEC Architecture & Interiors was chosen to design the new school, with Mitchell as lead architect with Chervenell Construction Co., was named chief contractor.

The old Westgate opened in 1952. Mitchell spent his entire elementary education at the school in the late 1960s and early 1970s while Chervenell only spent the latter part of his sixth-grade year at Westgate in the early 1960s, after his family moved to Kennewick from Spokane.

Mitchell recalls having classrooms progressively closer to the school’s gym as he got older and playing at the little league baseball fields on the other side of Conway Place. Chervenell remembers playing among the sycamores on the west side of the building and prank calling the school’s principal with a friend.

“He called us back after we hung up and asked if we had called and we panicked,” Chervenell says, laughing.

Mitchell has designed seven other Kennewick elementary school projects, while this is the first project in the district for Chervenell’s company. The $18.4 million building is paid for by the bond approved by voters in 2015. Both say they are pleased with how the project has gone.

“It should be obvious to anyone who looks at it that it’s a good design and good construction,” Chervenell says.

The new building is scheduled to open in the fall of 2017. While Mitchell says he has attended a number of ribbon cuttings for new Kennewick schools in recent years, he is particularly looking forward to the one for Westgate.

“Out of all of them, it will probably be the most memorable for me,” he says.