Arizona’s first Jewish high school is gearing up for its move from Phoenix to Scottsdale, joining a growing list of private and charter schools opening or relocating on this side of the cities’ shared border.
Jess Schwartz High School recently submitted designs for its new $15 million, 50,000-square-foot location at 12707 N. Scottsdale Road, on the Valley of the Sun Jewish Community Center campus.
The new location will be able to handle more than twice as many students it has at its current site, on the Temple Chai synagogue grounds at 4645 E. Marilyn Road in Phoenix.
“Based upon the space we have, we have more demand than supply,” said Janice Johnson, the school’s chief administrator.
Over the last five years, Scottsdale has received applications from 10 private or charter schools to open locations in the city.
Robin Meinhart, city planning spokeswoman, said there is a healthy demand for such schools in Scottsdale. Between 2003 and 2020, officials expect nearly 82,000 new residents here.
“In general, you could say that private/ charter schools see Scottsdale as a viable place to locate,” Meinhart said.
Not all startups have gone smoothly. SonRise Community Church sued after the City Council in 2005 rejected its application to build a religious school alongside its existing church on a 9-acre parcel at 29505 N. Scottsdale Road. The church’s neighbors had complained the school would be incompatible with the neighborhood and increase traffic in the area unreasonably, creating a safety hazard.
But City Council members, faced with a potentially long and expensive court battle, reversed their decision in May and agreed to a settlement in the lawsuit that let the school go forward.
Johnson said Jess Schwartz High School, on the other hand, hasn’t had any serious complaints from the residential neighborhood it abuts. But the school plans to hold a public meeting on the development plans at the Jewish Community Center on Aug. 28.
The existing school, she said, is designed to hold up to 85 students comfortably. But enrollment already has reached about 100 students from across the Valley, with up to 125 expected in the next year or so. The new Scottsdale location is designed for 250 students.
The new site would have a pair of two-story classroom buildings, an arts building, a gymnasium and a cafeteria, whereas the existing site is split between a small main building and some temporary structures.
“We’ll be able to have everything in one place,” Johnson said of the new site.
The new school is scheduled to have three outdoor amphitheaters for outdoor classes when the weather is appropriate.
If teachers want to take classes outside now, they’re limited to picnic tables, she said.
The school’s curriculum mixes Jewish religious and cultural studies with secular subjects like English and the sciences, Johnson said.
“These guys are going to be Jewish leaders,” she said. “We want them to be proud of their Judaism.”
Administrators are also looking to create a safe environment for the students, with a security kiosk guarding the entrance and the grounds monitored by closed-circuit television.
“To me it’s not about being a Jewish high school versus other high schools,” Johnson said. “I think everybody has a heightened awareness of security.”
Groundbreaking is scheduled for Dec. 2, with construction anticipated to be complete in January 2009.
Private or charter schools submitting development applications to Scottsdale in the last five years:
• Jess Schwartz High School, 12707 N. Scottsdale Road
• BASIS Charter School, 9128 E. San Salvador
• Foothills Academy, 7191 E. Ashler Hills Drive
• SonRise Community Church, 29505 N. Scottsdale Road
• New Covenant Lutheran Church Children’s Ministry Center, 15152 N. Frank Lloyd Wright Blvd.
• Reinvented Charter School, 9181 E. Bell Road
• Desert Vista Charter School, 18201 N. 94th St.
• Olympic Private School, 9318 N. 95th Way
• Mission Montessori on the Desert School, 11050 N. 96th St.
• Notre Dame Preparatory High School, 9701 E. Bell Road