Casteel High growth surprises CUSD with new expenses - SanTan Sun News SanTan Sun News

Casteel High growth surprises CUSD with new expenses

May 9th, 2022 SanTan Sun News
Casteel High growth surprises CUSD with new expenses

By Ken Sain
Staff Writer

When Casteel High School opened in 2015, officials thought it would be a small school but much like the town it’s in – Queen Creek – it has grown faster than Chandler Unified School District officials were prepared for.

The district Governing Board on April 27 approved construction of eight tennis courts and a concession building for the high school. As part of the deal, the existing four tennis courts at the school will be converted to basketball courts. The cost is about $4.4 million.

Members of the board pointed out during the meeting that they keep having to go back to Casteel because they underestimated how many students would be enrolled at the school.

The Queen Creek school has more than 3,200 students in grades 7-12, and more than 2,100 in the high school. Queen Creek’s population in 2015 was just over 30,000. Today, it’s estimated to top 68,000.

“We did what we had to do at the beginning to get it up, operational,” said Frank Fletcher, the district’s assistant superintendent for support services. “The campus exploded and we never saw it coming.”

Fletcher said the school had about 1,000 students in its first year, and they expected only about 750-to-800. Board President Barb Mozdzen said it was her recollection they hoped the enrollment would be capped at between 1,600-to-2,000.

“For the record, every high school that I’ve known this district to build, we’ve over-exceeded,” said board member Joel Wirth.

Because the district underestimated the number of students who would enroll, the school was built in pieces, Fletcher said. The district also has had to buy land for the school four separate times to accommodate that growth. One of those purchases was to add a parking lot and main entrance to the school.

Tom Dunn, the director of construction for the district, said eight tennis courts are required for schools to compete in AIA and that all other CUSD high schools have that many.

State tennis matches comprise five single matches and three doubles matches. Fletcher said trying to complete all eight matches on four courts is a challenge, especially in the fall when the sun sets earlier. The freshmen tennis teams play in the fall, and the varsity plays in the spring.

The 2,718-square-foot concession building would be shared by the tennis courts and the district’s beach volleyball facility. In addition to providing food and drinks, it would also provide permanent bathrooms for the area.

Currently, there are portable bathrooms for that area. Those would be moved to between the school’s varsity baseball and softball fields, Dunn said.

That’s the early plan, Fletcher cautioned the board. He said it depends on finding a suitable location, saying they need to find a domestic water source and there has to be a way for the vendor to get to them for service.

“We still have some evaluation on the site to do before we pick a location,” Fletcher said. “Finding the domestic water to flush is our challenge right now and how far we have to trench.”

Dunn said once the new tennis courts are built, the existing ones would be converted to basketball courts and turned over to the school’s physical education department.

Superintendent Frank Narducci reminded the board that the beach volleyball courts at Casteel are used by all schools in the district.

Fletcher said the school has been asking for all eight tennis courts since they filled all of its grades. He said it is time to fix that problem.

“We have a little bit more light in the spring, but in the fall getting those matches completed is unreasonable,” Fletcher said.