History made as Pima breaks ground on new high school

Jon Johnson Photo/Gila Herald: The Pima School District celebrated the groundbreaking for the new Pima High School on Friday. The new 67,000-square-foot facility is expected to be completed by July 2025.

By Jon Johnson


Jon Johnson Video/Gila Herald

PIMA – It was a historic day in Pima on Friday as the Pima School District held its official groundbreaking for its new high school to be built just northeast of the intersection of Highway 70 and 200 South.

The site is nearly double the size of the current high school facility and will be a 67,000-square-foot campus featuring new ball fields, a gymnasium, a football field, performing arts, culinary arts, CTE, school administration, and classrooms. 

Jon Johnson Photo/Gila Herald: Pima Superintendent Sean Rickert addresses the crowd.

On Friday, Pima Superintendent Sean Rickert was joined by the school board, numerous teachers, and others to celebrate the occasion. The event also featured performances by the Pima School Choir and Band as well as a speech by Class of 2026 President Miley Preston. The Class of 2026 will be the first graduating class of the new high school, according to the district’s timeline. 

“It is such an honor to be able to be part of the first class to graduate from this new high school,” Preston said. “Here we have an amazing opportunity to grow. We have overcome many trials and setbacks and there are bound to be more troubles along the way, but in the end, it will be worth it.”

Jon Johnson Photo/Gila Herald: Sophomore President Miley Preston said she was proud to be part of the first class set to graduate from the new high school.

“I’m excited about getting a new high school to have bathrooms that actually work; having nice tennis facilities that are actually on our campus; for each of those teachers to have a new classroom; to be part of a historical moment as a member of the first class to graduate from this high school, I’m proud to be a student here at Pima and am excited to see the future generations grow . . .”

Pima Superintendent Sean Rickert greeted those in attendance and said it was being there in person that one could physically see the transformation that is occurring.

Jon Johnson Photo/Gila Herald: From left, Pima Town Manager Vernon Batty joins Pima Town Council members C.B. Fletcher, and Teresa Bailey, and Vice-Mayor Sherrill Teeter in tossing a shovel of dirt.

“It’s being here and seeing the space that really, I think, helps us to understand what’s happening for Pima,” Rickert said.

“Today has been a long time coming,” Pima High School Principal Cody Barlow said. “It’s a very important day for us at Pima High School and for our students and our community. It’s a really exciting moment for us. The construction of this new facility, this new high school, isn’t just the putting up of buildings or the building of walls, it’s laying a foundation for our students and the success that they’ll have in their future. And I really look forward to seeing our students thrive in this new high school.”

Jon Johnson Photo/Gila Herald: Pima Principal Cody Barlow exhorts his excitement for the new school.

Pima has been awarded a new construction grant of $22.3 million to build the high school and has secured a loan of nearly $4.5 million to be paid through regular school operating revenue.

Pima High School’s current enrollment is about 350 students, and the new high school is expected to open in the fall of 2025 with an enrollment of about 425. The school will initially be built to house up to 500 students but can be easily expanded to house 600 students at full build-out, according to Rickert. 

“It’s been my honor to take this project and make the things happen that need to happen to go forward,” Rickert said. He added that the teachers toured schools throughout the state and then met with the architects to design Pima’s school.

Jon Johnson Photo/Gila Herald: The Pima Band plays at the event.

“This is our school,” Rickert said. “This is Pima’s high school that we are building. You wouldn’t build it anywhere else; it’s not made for anybody else. This is for you, for your kids, and your grandkids and going forward generation after generation.”

Since the classrooms and buildings left behind from the old high school are not up to code for student use, they will be utilized as administration offices, according to Rickert. He invited those at the groundbreaking to return in 17 months for the grand opening of the new school.  

Currently, the only entrance to the new high school is off Center Street to the north, but a new traffic light and road to enter the school from U.S. Highway 70 at 200 South is expected to be approved by the Arizona Department of Public Transportation.

Jon Johnson Photo/Gila Herald: Aerial picture of the construction site as of Feb. 10, 2024.