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2 Higley Middle Schools Depend On Voters

Compiled by Eric Jay Toll for The Arizona Builder’s Exchange

Original source: The Arizona Republic

Hunt & Caraway Architects and Core Construction and Higley Unified School District have the land, renderings and extensive plans for two middle schools hopefully opening next August. District officials are banking on voters in November to approve the longer lease authorization they need to build the schools and open them by next year.

The site plans, floor plans and elevation renderings were shown last week during a forum, sponsored by Yes Yes Yes for Higley Schools Committee, which attracted about 100 people to discuss the need for the middle schools, growth in the area, and the three initiatives voters will decide Nov. 6.

Plunging property values and failure of the legislature to enact a law allowing a higher debt-to-assessed valuation ratio for schools, HUSD is unable to spend funds already approved by voters to build the schools. Instead, the cash-strapped district will lease, operate and maintain the schools. The vote is required to allow the district to enter into a lease running longer than five years for a lower cost, Birdwell said. More than $70M in approved bond money cannot be spent because of the valuation ratio limit.

Higley has a development company that would work with a non-profit to lease the middle-school properties. The developer and the non-profit would work together to build the schools and then lease the property back to the district, Birdwell said.

The middle schools will have high-school-size gymnasiums, rooms for dance, art and music, and illuminated athletic fields to rent out to the community. Preschools are planned at each of the middle schools to bring in extra money to the district, said Superintendent Denise Birdwell, adding, “Preschools are good business.”

The architect and contractor are major financial supporters of the bond issue campaign.

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