Chandler OKs building new school in Gilbert - SanTan Sun News SanTan Sun News

Chandler OKs building new school in Gilbert

June 3rd, 2019 development
Chandler OKs building new school in Gilbert

Staff Writer

Construction of a new elementary school in the Chandler Unified School District is expected to break ground this fall, after the school board voted unanimously to build the district’s second gifted academy at a May 22 meeting.

Students and staff at the current Weinberg facility will be relocated to the new school. The previous Weinberg building will then be transformed into the district’s second gifted academy.

The new school will be located at the cross streets of Ocotillo Road and 148th Street in Gilbert and serve students on CUSD’s East side that are currently utilizing satellite gifted learning sites throughout the district.

CUSD currently has 4,000 total students that are eligible for gifted learning services; due to limited resources and space, only 1,000 of those students are enrolled in a gifted program.

“We do have an underserved population there so we do feel the gifted academy, just like Knox, will start out with a reasonable number of students and will grow to 750 within a four to five year span,” said Frank Narducci, Assistant Superintendent for Elementary Instruction.

The school has a construction budget of 18,000,000 and is expected to be modeled after the Auxier Elementary campus for energy efficiency and optimized safety.

“One, is the building is highly energy efficient. And two, when we get into a lockdown it’s a one button lock down that closes out all the exterior doors. With the interior circulation, we’re not constantly opening doors to the outside,” said Frank Fletcher, Associate Superintendent for Support Services.

The actual design for the school has been reworked about ten times, Fletcher said, because it has been difficult to determine structural obstacles or where to put plumbing, sewage, and other key items without access to the land.

“The problem we have right now is because we don’t own the land, we can’t get on and do an environmental study because the 400 plus acres has not been subdivided yet. So the architecture and design team are aware of groundbreaking date and they are proceeding the best they can right now,” said Fletcher.

To finish the school in July of 2020, the groundbreaking must take place no later than November first.

Some parents have expressed concerns about eliminating satellite sites for gifted students because of the new academy.

Narducci said the district is open to having satellite sites run alongside the district’s two academies so long as “they are running successfully and sustainably.”

In addition to the new gifted academy, the board also approved a number of elementary school boundary changes expected to alleviate dense student populations in the district’s East side schools, which will go into effect in 2020.

Students and families residing in the one mile block surrounded by Queen Creek Rd., Ocotillo Rd., Gilbert Rd., and Cooper Rd. currently positioned in the Haley Elementary boundary will be redirected to Ryan Elementary.

The second shift redirects the eastern half mile portion of currently vacant land bordered by Val Vista Drive and Ocotillo, Chandler Heights, and Lindsay Roads from Ryan Elementary to Weinberg Elementary.

The final shift of students redirects the square mile bordered by Hunt Road, Riggs Road, Recker Road., and Higley Road from Patterson Elementary to Riggs Elementary.

Currently enrolled students and students enrolled in the 2019-20 school year will have the option to be grandfathered in at Haley Elementary or Patterson Elementary through the 2025-26 school year.  If capacity allows, open enrollment will continue to be an option.

“This would be a great opportunity as we handle growth to also bring the richness of diverse programs the schools that don’t have them right now because the schools are overcrowded,” said Narducci.

Though the board’s approval has set gears into motion, Narducci said parental input will be needed now more than ever moving forward.

“This doesn’t stop here, everything starts here with getting additional input on the programs and finding out what parents really want for their children,” he said.