Galveston School first up for big rebuild

From left, Galveston Elementary students Amedee Makoubi, Sophia Martinez and Mathew Makoubi offer suggestions on what the new school should look like. (Chandler Unified School District)

Chandler Unified officials say rebuilding two elementary schools offers an opportunity to build the dream school of the future and so they’re inviting everyone to help them with the design.

“With those two rebuilds, we will go through the same process,” said Tom Dunn, the district’s executive director of support services. “Those sites, we’ll reimagine that school, not just rebuild the school as is.

“Looking at what are your needs, what is it that you could be, or that you want to be, and then designing a school that will meet those needs.”

The two schools, Galveston and Hartford, were both built about 60 years ago and need major upgrading.

District officials decided it would be cheaper to build new schools than it would be to do major renovations to improve those schools to the level they want.

The governing board voted Dec. 14 to approve an architect to begin designing a new Galveston Elementary. They selected Orcutt Winslow to do the design, but they will do so with community input.

The district has asked teachers, staff, students and community leaders to help them imagine what the new school should be.

“There’ll be plenty of community input as we move forward,” Superintendent Frank Narducci said. “Staff input has to reimagine what educational needs there are for the Galveston community, and what education could look like for our students.”

The contract with Orcutt Winslow is for $1,275,750 and is being paid with money from the 2019 bond.

Dunn said the hope is construction starts this summer and the new school ready for use for the 2024-25 school year. Current Galveston students will continue to attend classes in the same buildings they’re using now while construction is underway.

Once Galveston is rebuilt, then the district will focus on rebuilding Hartford. However, that would likely require new funding in the form of another bond election. The Galveston project is expected to cost more than $23.6 million.

The new Galveston school is planned to be 67,500 square feet and have a capacity of 750 students. The current Galveston was designed for the same number, but is currently under capacity at about 600 students.

District officials have said they expect enrollment to drop further because of overall declining enrollment in the early grades.

Galveston and Hartford are among nine schools the district is looking at for repurposing to make it more attractive to parents. The others are Conley Elementary, Bologna, Hull, Frye, Navarette, San Marcos, Sanborn, and Shumway Leadership Academy.

The district put together a committee to look at the schools and decide how best to prepare for a future with declining enrollments. It may mean turning the schools into a gifted academy, or adding a language immersion program.

Five of the schools are at less than 50% of capacity. The high price of housing in the Chandler and Gilbert areas is making it harder for young families to live here. Because of that, fewer students are enrolling at the earliest grades, a trend the district expects to continue.

To combat that, they plan to be more aggressive in convincing parents to send their students to CUSD schools. The governing board increased the marketing budget. They hope the success of their gifted academies and other specialized schools will draw students away from charter or private schools.

Lana Berry, the chief financial officer and assistant superintendent for business services for the district, said, “We need to make sure that we are continuously repurposing and reimagining our schools.

“If you’re old and it costs more to replace things, we want to make sure that then we’re replacing those schools if it costs more to remodel than to construct. We also want to make sure that we’re reimagining schools to meet the academic needs of that school.”

Narducci pointed out there is a Chandler CARE Center next to Galveston Elementary, and this might be an opportunity to incorporate the two together. Chandler CARE Centers were started in 1995 as a school-based family resource center.

“We’re looking at really doing the school-community kind of build where the CARE Center connects right to the school,” Narducci said.

“So we’re going to augment services at the CARE Center, that will really support that community and is connected to the construction of the school. So we have a great opportunity to do that.”

The district recently invited some students in to get their ideas on what a new Galveston might include.

“This will be the first time that we’ve gone through this planning process where instruction is going to drive construction,” Dunn said. “In the past, we’ve just built schools and said, ‘Here’s your school, start teaching.’

“And we really want instruction to have input, including the community, the teachers, the students as well through this process to help understand what the needs are at that school.

“I think we’re going to see a school much different than the last 12 schools that we built.”

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