CUSD looking to rebuild, repurpose schools - SanTan Sun News SanTan Sun News

CUSD looking to rebuild, repurpose schools

December 21st, 2022 SanTan Sun News
CUSD looking to rebuild, repurpose schools

By Ken Sain
Managing Editor

Chandler Unified School District is looking to rebuild two of its older elementary schools instead of trying to renovate them.

“We’ve got schools that were built in the ’50s and ’60s, and as we look at older schools we’ve got to look at … is the cost of the renovations greater than, or not a smart investment of dollars, when we could rebuild sites as they get older,” said Tom Dunn, the district’s executive director of support services.

The two elementary schools are Galveston and Hartford Sylvia Encinas. Hartford opened in 1957 and Galveston followed in 1963.

The district took the first step toward rebuilding Galveston as the Governing Board on Dec. 14 approved hiring Orcutt Winslow for $1,275,750 to design a 67,500-square foot building that would house up to 750 students. Construction would start in the summer and the new building would be ready for the 2024-2025 school year. Current students would continue to attend classes in the older buildings during construction.

The estimated cost of the new building is more than $23.6 million. The district still needs to figure out funding, which will likely come in a bond election.

Dunn on Nov. 30 outline the district’s plans for nine schools because of an expected drop in enrollment in the future. The list includes Conley Elementary, Bologna, Hull, Frye, Galveston, Navarette, San Marcos, Sanborn, and Shumway Leadership Academy.

A committee will look at the schools and decide how best to prepare for a future with declining enrollments. It may mean turning the schools into a gifted academy, or adding a language immersion program.

Five of the schools are at less than 50% of capacity. The high price of housing in the Chandler and Gilbert areas is making it harder for young families to live here. Because of that, fewer students are enrolling at the earliest grades, a trend the district expects to continue.

To combat that, they plan to be more aggressive in convincing parents to send their students to CUSD schools. The governing board increased the marketing budget an hopes hope the success of their gifted academies and other specialized schools will draw students.

“With those sites we’d go through a reimagine with the community,” Dunn said. “Not just rebuild the school as is, but looking … at what are your needs, what is it that you could be or that you want it to be, and then designing a school that will meet those needs.”

Lana Berry is the chief financial officer and assistant superintendent for business services for the district.

“We need to make sure that we are continuously repurposing and reimagining our schools,” Berry said. “If you’re old and it costs more to replace things, we want to make sure that then we’re replacing those schools if it costs more to remodel than to construct. We also want to make sure that we’re reimagining schools to meet the academic needs of that school.”

Berry said it’s important for the district to listen to what parents want and make sure they are addressing those needs if they want to continue to be a premier district of choice.

“We know that we need to be ready for the future and our parents want choices and opportunities,” she said. Dunn also discussed the cost savings of installing artificial turf on all high school ballfields. The governing board is expected to vote on that in early 2023.