The Ken “Chief” Hill Learning Academy will open in July as Chandler Unified School District’s first stand-alone campus for students in its alternative learning program.
The campus, near Frye and Cooper roads, is being built with bond funds approved by voters. Construction is on schedule to be completed by the first day of school on July 27.
The academy is designed for students with discipline, academic or attendance challenges.
For many years, Chandler Unified hired an outside company to run an alternative program for junior high and high school students. This past school year, the district took over the operations and hired Saunders Montague, a former assistant principal in the district, to be the director.
Montague will again be in charge when the new campus opens.
“I think with the new building and it actually standing alone, with the kids it’s going to help because they’re going to get their own school,” said Craig Gilbert, director of secondary education in the Chandler district.
Seventh- through 12th-grade students are referred to the program from their home schools, Montague said. The alternative school is set up as a place for most of the students to attend temporarily.
“Our goal, our mission, is to help the students return to their home school and for the ones who, for whatever reason, remain with us because maybe this is a better fit for them,” he said.
The building can hold 350 students, though it could start with less than half that numer in July, Gilbert said. There are two floors. The bottom floor will provide a space for students with special needs.
The new campus also has upgraded technology from what the students had at the Pathways Learning Center north of Chandler High School. The Pathways center is being transformed into the district’s new traditional junior high school.
“The nice thing is the programming Saunders has put in place this year will carry over to the new building,” Gilbert said. “It’s going to enhance what Saunders is doing this year.”
The new campus has eight classrooms, five upstairs and three downstairs. The program at Pathways now has three high school rooms, Saunders said.
There’s also an outdoor sitting area and the alternative program will have its own multipurpose room, instead of sharing a gymnasium like it does now with Chandler High.
“What I’m impressed by is just the space,” Saunders said. “With having the space, we’ll be able to have other programs there that will help the students to meet their goals.”
Gilbert thinks the new facility will make an impression on the students as well.
“Our students, regardless of whatever reason they’re at any of our schools, I think it’s important for them to know they’re important, just like any other student.”