By Yihyun Jeong for The Arizona Republic
Picture handing a car salesman a fat wad of cash.
With no say in the make, model or color of the vehicle, you’re presented with a brand-new car in which you’ve had no input.
That’s how one parent views the contentious rebuild of Hopi Elementary School in Phoenix.
“The folks in the Hopi community are very upset and disappointed,” Dan Drake said. “The school board told us that they heard us … It seems that if anything, they’ve just cemented the positions they’ve taken.”
The Scottsdale Unified School District Governing Board voted 4-1 to move forward with the redesign of Hopi during a special meeting. However, the vote included a laundry list of layout changes in an attempt to address community concerns.
As for the final exterior look of the much-beloved 57-year-old school nestled in Arcadia, one of Phoenix’s most well-to-do communities, Superintendent Denise Birdwell shared three possible themes: Santa Barbara, Midcentury Modern, and “residential farmhouse” (gables and all).
The options are an attempt to address concerns that Hopi would become homogenized, losing its uniqueness.
District leaders had temporarily halted the school rebuild in October after a firestorm of opposition from parents and residents and accusations of irresponsible spending.
But the board said it would be too costly to scrap designs and start over. Spending to date, according to records, has already reached more than $1M on design and construction.
Board member Allyson Beckham was the lone holdout in the vote that approved a $21M spending plan for the project. She favored the board taking more time to review design options.
Before the vote, Board President Barbara Perleberg addressed the impassioned parents and Arcadia residents who filled the meeting room at Mohave Elementary, saying she struggled to see a perfect process in which with the board could look back and say, “We got just the right amount of input.”
While moving the project forward, the board approved the following modifications that district officials and the rebuild committee say were gathered from teacher and community input:
- Place a media center in the middle of the classroom building.
- Move computer labs, speech and OT rooms and faculty workrooms to the classroom building interior with no windows.
- Increase Wi-Fi for classrooms.
- Decrease the size of the east drop-off section to increase the kindergarten play area.
- Shorten the bus drop-off.
- Add an outdoor amphitheater.
- Add a tree well in bus turnaround.
- Create a “Hopi Lane” using bricks from current building to form a pathway from school entrance to classroom building.
- Have teachers determine new site for tile art for new campus.
- Remove and place “Hopi Hawk” painting to new campus.
- Move basketball toward back of campus to create space and potential for covering.
- Potential elevation change to classroom building.
- Move playground away from building.
- Indent breezeways.
Birdwell also said new renderings from Hunt and Caraway Architects of Phoenix, which is leading the project, were ready to show the board and the rebuild committee at a later date.
The Hopi Legacy
But critics say they see a homogenized school design on a rushed construction schedule. Ground work already is underway on the project that is slated for completion in December 2018.
The project involves tearing down classrooms that are connected by outdoor hallways in favor of a consolidated single-story classroom building.
Parents of Hopi students and residents near the school have opposed the project since it was unveiled in May, saying that the new design removes historical architecture, weakens the overall learning environment and creates a traffic burden on the neighborhood.
Hopi’s rebuild is the first on a list of eight schools slated for restorations after voters passed a $229M bond measure in November 2016.
Read more at The Arizona Republic.
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