Dirk Backman inspects the construction work at Westwood High School in Mesa, Az July 19. 


Mesa Public Schools are receiving an infusion of $13 million for the 2016-17 school year, mostly directed to construction projects and new technology.

The biggest piece of the pie is the new classroom building at Westwood High School. That 86,000-square-foot building holds a media center, all the math classrooms and the culinary arts classrooms and work spaces.

The building is accented with four gigantic W’s, which blend into the project providing structural support, but the design is sure to boost school spirit, said John Miller, director of construction for the school district.

It carries a total price tag of $9.6 million, Miller said, but that amount has been split over two fiscal years.

Construction was completed July 1. The building will be ready for students when school starts next month.

The work at Westwood and around the district is being funded by the proceeds from the sale of $35 million of a $230 million bond issue that school district voters approved in 2012, school Superintendent for Business and Support Services Bobette Sylvester-McCarroll said.

The school district sells a portion of those bonds every year to fund some work, she said. With the 2016 sale, the district has sold 72 percent of what voters approved.

Although the Westwood construction is the highest profile, a lot of smaller projects have taken place all around the district—59 in all.

It’s not unusual that the proceeds of the bond sale are paying for so many projects, Sylvester-McCarroll said.

“A bond sale will go toward some big building projects, but also for a lot of small, valuable projects,” she said.

That’s important, she said, because a committee identified 177 needed projects that cost a total of $28 million for this year. The 59 that the District chose to fund this year total $13.1 million.  

A new feature at Westwood is the inclusion of a fitness trail from the main campus across Extension Street, to the school’s satellite buildings. The idea is to make that trail attractive to both students and the public. Besides serving as a walking or running path, it will include exercise stations, Miller said.

A shorter path—a palm trail—will be constructed from the main campus to the football stadium.

The new Westwood math and culinary arts building was designed to be durable, Miller said. Much of the flooring is concrete.

Drinking fountains are equipped with stations to fill water bottles.

The design includes window coverings that block the view inside in case of a shooting on campus.

Another building project at Westwood is still to be finished this summer, Miller said. The old media center is being remodeled to accommodate special education classes. Because some equipment had to be moved from the old media center to the new building, work on the existing building had to wait. It’s underway now.

Next summer, more work is to occur at Westwood, Miller said, when the rest of the main campus is pegged for renovation.

Also this summer, five Mesa elementary schools are undergoing bathroom remodeling projects, four elementary schools are getting new carpet and one elementary kitchen is being remodeled.

At nearly every one of the 87 Mesa Public Schools sites, work is occurring on the heating and cooling systems. Many gymnasiums and auditoriums are getting sound and light upgrades. Asphalt work is occurring on nearly every campus.

Fence work is underway at all 57 elementary schools. By the end of summer, perimeter security fencing will be in place on those campuses. Junior high schools get fences next year, followed by high school campuses. Security cameras are also being installed, about 45 at each high school and 15 at every elementary school. The fencing and cameras carry a total price tag of $3 million.

Other projects currently in the works include a new drainage system at Dobson High School to keep a parking lot from repeatedly flooding. A locker room at Dobson is also undergoing renovations.

Athletes at Mountain View High School will have a new track surface when they return to school in August.

Another $400,000 this year is being spent to demolish the vacant Mesa Junior High School. The city and the school district earlier reached an agreement that the city will take over that land and develop it into a park.

Not all of the $230 million that voters approved was pegged for construction, Sylvester-McCarroll said. Some is paying for technology and transportation needs.

Westwood is one of four Mesa high schools that this year implements the 1-to-1 technology program, being paid for with proceeds from the bond measure. Every student at Westwood, Dobson, Red Mountain and Skyline high schools will receive a tablet to use for the entire year. The other two high schools—Mesa and Mountain View—will have the tablets next fall.

Around 200 charging stations will be installed at each school for student use. All Mesa schools already have curb-to-curb Wi-Fi, Miller said.

Addressing technology needs is vital, Sylvester-McCarroll said. The devices are a tool, she said, which allow teachers to become more effective. “Students can use their tablets to complete assignments in new ways,” she said.

Sylvester-McCarroll expects the district to sell $35 million more in bonds next spring.


— Contact Shelley Ridenour at 480-898-6533 or sridenour@evtrib.com.

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