Just over two years ago, the Mesa Unified School District voted to close Powell Junior High School as a neighborhood school.
Now, it is a "very important community center" in the area, according to district Superintendent Mike Cowan.
The district "repurposed" the junior high school into the Mesa Education Center at 855 W. Eighth Ave. The center is now home to the district's community education department, a preschool, two academic high school programs and the district's instrument repair shop. Every day, nearly 600 children, students and adults come to the campus - and that doesn't include anyone visiting the community health clinic operated by Banner Health Systems.
"It's really a happy ending to what I know was an emotionally charged and painstaking process," when the district voted to close the school, community education director Tot Wallace told the governing board during a recent meeting.
Crossroads, an alternative program for students, as well as the East Valley Academy both moved to the site. Both are smaller, alternative high schools. Many East Valley Academy students take career classes at the nearby East Valley Institute of Technology.
From young children in the preschool to adults take taking English or GED classes, or using the school's computer lab, the facility is in full use by a number of generations. Groups still call asking to be a part of the Mesa Education Center, Wallace told the Tribune. Sometimes it's so crowded, parking is an issue.
Line dancing, karate and fitness classes are offered at night for community members, Wallace said. Youth sports teams - as well as adult sports teams - use the athletic fields on evenings and weekends. Students at Crossroads are helping to create a community garden.
Students from Powell Junior High School were transitioned to surrounding schools. The district will undertake the task of transforming a campus again after it closes Brimhall Junior High School at the end of this school year. It will become home to three Franklin elementary schools and Franklin Junior High School, popular back-to-basics programs in the district.
Mesa Junior High School will also close. During community meetings, the district has said there are discussions with the city about how that site may be used in the future, including a proposal to turn the site into a community athletics staging area.
A video about the Mesa Education Center can be found on the district's television website, www.edtv99.org.
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