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Submitted by Emily Toepfer on Mon, 08/18/2014 - 10:00pm
New schools planned for West Valley
Enrollment in West Valley schools is on the rise again, causing a few districts to scramble for space.
Plans for a sixth school are being made in the Liberty Elementary District after a land donation from home builder Taylor Morrison.
The Phoenix company is developing the Las Brisas community, near Lower Buckeye and Perryville roads in Goodyear, and gave about 15 acres of land needed for the new campus.
“We felt it was important to help give our homeowners access to their new elementary school as soon as it was feasible for the school district,” said Bob Thompson, vice president of sales and marketing for Taylor Morrison’s Phoenix division.
Liberty’s enrollment increased by about 2 to 3 percent in 2013, and officials expect the same this year, Superintendent Andy Rogers said.
“We went through some really, really rough times with the budget and declining enrollment, and have come out of it much stronger,” he said. “We’re back on the increasing enrollment trend, but you never know. The confidence in the growth is pretty fragile, but we are in a trend upward.”
Money to build the $12 million campus is already available from a bond passed by voters last November, and also capital and adjacent way funds, Rogers said.
Taylor Morrison will provide all off-site infrastructure required by the city to support the school, which is on schedule to open for the 2015-16 school year, he said.
In the last few years, Liberty’s schools have each established different signature programs, such as STEM and agricultural sciences.
The district offers open enrollment at each campus to pupils who live in and out of the district, and provides transportation to most of its schools based on geography, Rogers said.
The new campus will feature two unique schools, one with the theme of visual and performing arts and the other a dual language immersion program for pupils in kindergarten through third grade, he said.
“We surveyed parents and staff, and those were the ones people were most interested in adding to our portfolio of signature programs,” Rogers said.
“We anticipate these programs will be popular and there will be plenty of demand for them. Parents really like being able to have these distinct choices with the types of schools that we offer.”
The Liberty district spans about 285 square miles and has schools in Buckeye, Goodyear and county land.
For the Litchfield Elementary District, the increase of pupils is coming from the Verrado community in Buckeye, and a new school was approved last week for the area.
The Litchfield district has more than 11,000 pupils in 13 schools, including two already in Verrado. The newest is planned for the Heritage District at Thomas Road and Verrado Way, and will be named Verrado Heritage Elementary.
“We meet with Realtors and builders to get economic projections, and there’s no question at all, the growth is on the west side of our district, because that’s where there’s land,” district spokeswoman Ann Donahue said.
The new 80,500-square-foot school will accommodate up to 950 pupils in kindergarten through eighth grade. Plans call for two-story classroom buildings, which is a first for the Litchfield district, Donahue said.
The land for the school was donated by Verrado developer DMB Associates, and the district will have a $35 million bond on the ballot this November to fund the school and pay for improvements at other campuses and district buildings, she said.
“We still have quite a few things that need to be done at a number of our older schools, and the state coffer, Students FIRST, is completely dry. So we receive nothing from the state for that,” Donahue said.
Building is scheduled to start right away, with hopes to have the campus done for the 2015-16 school year, she said.
“We know numbers-wise what’s happening and what’s coming, so we would certainly like to open this up in a year versus having to be completely over-populated,” Donahue said.
Last month, two other districts, Agua Fria Union High School and Littleton Elementary, announced plans to open new campuses in the next couple of years.
Officials for Agua Fria are putting together an exploratory committee to determine the best spot for a new school, select a construction company and figure estimated costs and financing options, Superintendent Dennis Runyan said at a July 31 meeting.
The district will likely ask voters in November 2015 to approve financing for the school through a bond, he said.
The Littleton Elementary District is also expecting to have a new school up and running at 103rd Avenue and Durango Street by the fall of 2016.
Land was purchased for the project in 2012 with money from a previous bond approved by taxpayers.
The district is now seeking to pass a $14.25 million bond in November to pay for construction of the building, which would begin early next year, officials said.
Emily Toepfer can be reached by email at email@example.com or on Twitter @EmilyToepfer.
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