Gilbert district examines 'surplus space' in schools - East Valley Tribune: East Valley Education News

Gilbert district examines 'surplus space' in schools

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Posted: Tuesday, June 25, 2013 3:44 pm | Updated: 1:37 pm, Fri Jan 24, 2014.

There’s space in the Gilbert Unified School District for another 570 elementary students, 625 junior high students and 500 high school students, according to a report being presented Tuesday night to the district governing board.

Earlier this year the board created the “surplus space” committee, a group of district and community members charged with examining classroom availability in the district.

It came about after the board reversed a decision made last year to close Gilbert Junior High School.

District leaders had created a plan last year to move the growing Gilbert Classical Academy from its site on about half of a former elementary school campus to Gilbert Junior High School in order to grow the program. The idea angered many neighbors and Gilbert Junior High School families.

Three new members of the board – Jill Humpherys, Daryl Colvin and Julie Smith, along with the board’s new president, Staci Burk, voted to reverse that plan in January. Burk was the only member of the board to vote against the school’s closure last fall.

After that decision, board members asked for a broader look to find empty classrooms in the elementary schools and space at the junior high and high schools.

Among the findings from the committee:

  • There are 19 “surplus” classrooms at 19 of the district’s elementary schools. These rooms not assigned to any teacher. Most are in the “west” region of the district, north of Warner Road and west of Greenfield Road.
  • Greenfield, Gilbert and Mesquite junior high schools each have about 200 spaces available for students.
  • Gilbert High School is using eight portable classrooms, but has capacity for another 300 students.
  • Campo Verde High School has more than 1,900 students. It is also using five portable classrooms, two of which are assigned to the ROTC program there.

"Going through the process was helpful," said board member Humpherys, who was a member of the committee. "We learned if we had smaller class sizes, we would probably not have surplus space. Part of the issue is our class sizes have gotten fairly big."

The committee’s report suggests more work be done to look at how other districts use “surplus space.”

“The first phase is the facts, where they think there is surplus space. Now, in the second phase, the committee will look at where there is surplus space and (new home) developments, as well as how the district can follow the strategic plan, which calls for another traditional school east of Recker Road," Superintendent Dave Allison told the Tribune. "There are various directions they can go with that.”

The district's popular Neely Traditional Academy is located near Guadalupe and Cooper roads.

The committee will also look at school boundaries, evaluate open enrollment, consider “magnet” programs to draw in students and examine projected growth to make the best use of district facilities.

"Even though we are building homes, we can’t really project how many of those students we will receive because there is a lot of competition in Gilbert with charter schools. It’s hard to say how many students we’ll have. And they don’t all come at once," Humpherys said.

One major project still under way is Gilbert's Morrison Ranch, which will bring about 1,500 new homes in the next few years within the Gilbert school district boundaries. The district has a 10-acre elementary school site donated by the Morrison Family that has not been developed. It is located south of the intersections of Recker and Elliot roads.

The district also has a 13-acre elementary school site available to the east of Desert Ridge Junior High, Allison said.

The governing board will hear the report from the surplus space committee during its meeting 7 p.m. Tuesday, June 25, in the board room at 140 S. Gilbert Road.

A separate committee was assigned to consider and evaluate the needs of the growing Gilbert Classical Academy. That group should report back sometime later this summer.

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