Gates Foundation to back Tacoma arts high school

Herald staff

TACOMA — The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation has approved a $450,000 grant to help develop an arts high school in Tacoma.

The Tacoma School District proposal covers the first high school awarded a grant through the foundation’s model-school program, which supports innovation, said foundation spokeswoman Carol Rava. Thirteen elementary and middle schools have won previous grants, she said.

The three-year grant technically goes to the Greater Tacoma Community Foundation, but the funds will be used by Tacoma School District to help plan the new school. It would offer intensive training — combined with core subjects such as English and math — for promising young artists, musicians, singers and actors.

The school could open as early as next fall, said Dorothy McCuistion, who wrote the grant request and is facilitator of the Tacoma Arts High School Task Force.

District and task force members plan to meet toMday with Bob Gerye, principal of the 7-year-old Las Vegas Academy of International Studies, Performing and Visual Arts.

  • State senator pondering party switch: Maverick Democratic state Sen. Tim Sheldon called a news conference for today to announce whether he will switch to the Republican party, a move that could change the balance of power in the Senate. Sheldon said he would announce whether he will remain a Democrat, switch to the Republican Party or change his affiliation to Independent at a news conference this morning in the Senate chamber. With election results still arriving, it appears that Democrats will see their majority in the Senate shrink from 27-22 to 25-24. Sheldon, a Potlatch Democrat whose four-year term expires in 2003, confirmed Thursday that he was considering switching to the GOP, which would give Republicans a one-vote majority, or Independent, which a Senate leader said would be "chaotic." Sheldon is a conservative Democrat who often disagrees with party leaders on issues involving the environment and taxes. He said he endorsed Republican U.S. Sen. Slade Gorton for re-election and voted for Texas Gov. George W. Bush for president.

  • Investigators seeking identity of remains: Investigators are trying to identify human remains found at an RV park. Bob Huebner, the manager of the Silver Fox RV park outside Estacada, found the remains Saturday morning while inspecting a sewage-settling pond. The bones — a skull, ribcage, leg and arm bones — were in plain sight, behind some trees. The body may have been exposed to the elements for six months, said John Lundy of the Clackamas County medical examiner’s office. Sheriff’s deputies said no missing persons report has been issued in the area.

  • Gun control initiative riles crowd: Concern about the impact of Measure 5 fueled a big turnout at the Rose City Gun Collectors Show at the Portland Expo Center this weekend, the last Portland-area show before the measure is enforced. When Measure 5 takes effect Dec. 8, thousands of Oregon collectors will have to clear a background check before buying a firearm at a gun show. The new law requires that records of the sales be kept for five years. Many at the show said the trend toward tighter gun restrictions is on a collision course with their Second Amendment rights. Backers of the measure say it will close a loophole in gun laws that allows private individuals to sell guns without performing background checks. These sales could easily put guns into the hands of criminals, Measure 5 supporters argued. "The whole reason I did this was to shut off the floodgates of guns going into anyone’s hands without a background check," said state Sen. Ginny Burdick, D-Portland, who wrote the measure.

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