The Chandler Unified School District will be spending $4.4 million on land in Gilbert to construct a new elementary school for a growing student population.
Though enrollment rates are dropping in other parts of the district, the CUSD governing board last week unanimously approved buying 14.5 acres for a school that could accommodate almost 1,000 students.
The 14-acre parcel is located on the northeast corner of Ocotillo Road and 148th Street.
CUSD Chief Financial Officer Lana Berry said enrollment at three schools near Val Vista Drive is reaching maximum capacity and more families are projected to move to this area in the near future.
“It’s the location that we feel is best, with what land is left, to meet the needs of a growing community in the south,” Berry said. “The south is where we are still growing.”
The parcels consist of undeveloped land on the west side of Gilbert.
Berry said Maracay Homes intends to build houses soon in this area and wants to make sure an elementary school will be close enough to serve the new residents.
Families want a neighborhood school that’s less than a couple miles away, Berry said, and if CUSD can’t offer that then parents will take their children elsewhere.
“It’ll either be us or it’ll be a competitor,” Berry added.
Funds for the land acquisition will come from a $196-million bond passed by voters in 2015.
Students currently attending Weinberg Elementary are expected to enroll at the new campus and Weinberg’s old facility will transform into an academy for gifted students.
The district will have less than a year to build the new elementary school, as administrators expect to open the facility by July 2020.
CUSD Associate Superintendent Frank Fletcher said it’s an “aggressive” construction schedule, but thinks it can be done if contractors break ground by November.
The district recently initiated the process to spend $25 million on 73 acres near Gilbert and Brooks Farm roads for a new high school. That project is not expected to be done by 2021.
As some districts in Arizona are dealing with shrinking enrollment, CUSD continues to build new facilities to hold more growth that’s projected to come. Since 1998, the district’s opened more than 20 schools.
At the start of this school year, the district had about 46,200 students enrolled — an increase of about 5,000 students from six years earlier.