Tolleson Union High School
Chasse Building Team President Barry Chasse, governing board members Freddie Villalon and Kino Flores, Superintendent Nora Gutierrez, governing board Vice President Devin Del Palacio, governing board member Steven Chapman, governing board President Corina Madruga and ADM Group Principal Ben Barcon break ground at the site of Tolleson Union's future West Point High School. (West Valley View photo by Pablo Robles)

The arrival of the Dragons is one step closer, as West Point High School held its groundbreaking ceremony Sept. 19.

The Tolleson Union High School District’s seventh high school is on track to open in July at the northwest corner of Avondale and Encanto boulevards, according to Superintendent Nora Gutierrez.

“We have over 12,000 students (at the district), and therefore it was absolutely necessary to build this amazing high school as the West Valley continues to grow,” Gutierrez said at the ceremony.

Split into two phases, the 2019-20 school year will enroll freshmen and sophomores. After phase two of construction is complete the following summer, the 2020-21 school year will add juniors and seniors into the fold. The district estimates 1,200 students will enroll in the first year, though the design can accommodate 3,000 students.

“Phase one of the new high school will include building the instructional space, the athletic and common areas for our freshmen and sophomores only, and then phase two, expected to be completed by the summer of 2020, will build out the rest of the campus,” Gutierrez detailed. “That will include the space for all our juniors and seniors and allowing for the completion of varsity fields for athletics.”

Ben Barcon, principal at ADM Group, elaborated that the campus is 310,000 square feet and sits on 69 acres of land. It will have 11 major buildings, he said. ADM Group is architect for the project, while Chasse Building Team is the contractor.

“We are just honored to be a part of this project. We do schools all over the state, but there is something special about the West Valley,” said Chasse Building Team President Barry Chasse about community support.

Curriculum, of course, is important with any school. Among the district’s partners in this new endeavor, Gutierrez explained, is the nearby Luke Air Force Base.

“The design includes a wing pattern throughout the campus,” she expanded. “We have partnered with Luke Air Force Base, and we’ll provide an academy with rigorous and challenging curriculum and an emphasis on STEAM, which stands for science, technology, engineering, arts and math. And the academy will also focus on leadership, community service, critical thinking skills and the maximization of our students’ potential.

“West Point High School will have an Innovation Center that is open and flexible to meet the needs of our students and the flexible needs of the curriculum of all students, which is ever changing,” she added.

Growth in the West Valley was ultimately a factor for the construction of the new school.

“When I started on the board almost four years ago, we were providing information that talked about the growth in our community and the fact that we would need a new high school eventually. To see it actually come to fruition is so exciting,” said governing board President Corina Madruga.

“I want to thank the voters because without them we would not have the funding for this school,” she added after thanking guests in attendance, and the district’s partners. “So, thank you to the voters who believe in public education, who believe in our students, who have made the investment to our students and to our district.”

Barcon also thanked the state for additional funding because nearly $48 million of the project’s funding comes from the Arizona School Facilities Board. Another nearly $7 million is coming from adjacent ways. The voter-approved bond authorized over $53 million. The full project has a guaranteed maximum price of over $108 million.

“I for one can hardly wait until this school is built,” Barcon said. “It’s going to be state of the art, it’s going to be gorgeous, and I think our friends over here at Luke are going to enjoy our wings and everything else that we’ve incorporated into the design.”

Aside from publicly discussing the school’s name and mascot, the school’s colors – black and red – were also mentioned.

“The process for naming the school and determining the mascot and colors was one that included the entire community,” Gutierrez said. “Students, parents, community members, staff members and even students from our partner districts had a chance to weigh in on the name of the school, the colors and the mascot.”

Boundaries have yet to be determined. West Point’s principal is expected to be named by January.