The Maricopa Unified School District is moving toward building a scaled-back second high school with state School Facilities Board funding, district leaders announced at the beginning of May.
The new campus, scheduled to open in July 2022, will be built at the southeast corner of Farrell and Murphy roads near the eastern edge of town. The MUSD Governing Board approved the purchase of 80 acres from Maricopa 240 LLC on April 22.
District Business Director Jacob Harmon said in a district press release the site was selected from several options reviewed because “it is priced the best, it is not impacted by the flood plain and is in an area of our city that is predicted to see substantial growth.”
The press release said plans for the second high school call for an initial phase including classrooms, a gymnasium, band and choir facilities and more, which can be expanded to meet future needs. The district is projected to as much as double its current enrollment of 7,600 over the next eight years.
MUSD Superintendent Dr. Tracey Lopeman said, “We are stewards of taxpayer money, and we are committed to building a high school that maximizes every dollar in the first phase while providing an infrastructure set for expansion into future phases.”
In November 2018, the facilities board set $22 million aside for construction of a new high school campus and another $3.5 million for purchasing land to reduce crowding at Maricopa High School, which is now about 600 students over capacity at an enrollment of 2,466, the district said.
The facilities board approval requires construction of 125,000 square feet with space for up to 1,300 students in grades 9-12, but the funding was intended to cover just a portion of the cost of a comprehensive campus similar to Maricopa High.
The rest was expected to come from district funding, but voters rejected a $68 million bond issue to finance that project and maintenance at other campuses by 57% last November.
MUSD is now planning a campus composed of four modular career academies or “small learning communities,” which can be expanded as enrollment grows and funding becomes available. Each one of these academies would hold up to 325 students and have an expected teacher ratio of 1 for every 25 students.
Design elements will include safety considerations like limited access points and open spaces for ease of student monitoring, as well as flexible classroom space, the press release said.
Discussions about focus areas for each of the four academies are in the early stages, but some themes emerging are agriculture, global learning, additional career-technical education options and bringing in a community college partner.
Governing Board President AnnaMarie Knorr said, “I am excited for the children in our city. The additional high school will not only address overcrowding but will arrive with its own identity and focus. It is not meant to be a cookie-cutter replication of Maricopa High School, this is about expanding opportunities. It is important to us that each school continues to develop its own unique culture and programming to meet the diverse needs and interests of all our scholars.”
The district said the new campus is “on track” despite the realities of the COVID-19 pandemic, with project managers reporting there should be enough construction workers and materials to complete the project.