By Melissa Fittro for Scottsdale Independent
It’s been nearly one year since Scottsdale voters approved a $229M bond package to upgrade and renovate schools within the Scottsdale Unified School District.
Voters last November gave the district the green light — and the financial permission — to push forward to enhance the physical facilities, which officials contend will enhance the educational experience.
Now, one year later, the first three of eight elementary school rebuilds are in the works, while renovations have already been made on four other campuses.
Since last November, SUSD’s Governing Board and top district officials have publicly discussed details relating to the bond package on almost a monthly basis.
Rarely does a governing board meeting fail to address some aspect of the planned projects: From discussing future plans, choosing architects and even selecting the color of the brick used in a school’s renovation.
SUSD’s leadership has been steadily moving forward with a multitude of projects earmarked for the bond money. Renovations and planning for a complete rebuild have commenced at a handful of SUSD’s 29 campuses.
Progress has moved forward at a fever pitch, only to be slowed down recently by parents at Hopi Elementary School who claim they want to have greater say on what types of work will be done at their school.
Over the past 11 months, SUSD officials and their hired hands have gotten to work redesigning and planning improvements at many schools, in addition to reviewing security and lifecycle needs at each facility.
They’ve moved fast. Maybe too fast. Hopi parents and another recently organized group have questioned a number of the board’s decisions —ranging from the selection of architects to the openness of the entire process.
“We also went through a procurement process to hire Core Construction, a competitive bidding process. They were selected from multiple firms.”
The five elected members of the Governing Board have been engaged throughout the process, Superintendent Dr. Denise Birdwell noted, stating they have approved the design, construction and architect firms for Hopi Elementary.
Birdwell explained that the Oct. 25 sit-down amongst community members and district officials at Mohave District Annex was due to a vocal community asking for the rebuild project to slow down.
In the Beginning
Looking back, on Nov. 8, 2016, SUSD’s voters approved a $229M bond, and an $8.5M capital override — both of which district officials said were crucial for students.
In spring 2016, the district began a needs assessment on its 29 physical school campuses.
In asking for $229M, SUSD officials said the money would be targeted to the following areas:
- Eight elementary schools needed to be re-built, absorbing 56.6 percent of the bond;
- Twenty-two schools needed lifecycle improvements, which would account for 21.5 percent of the bond;
- Nine schools needed learning environment remodels; 9.2 percent;
- Transportation updates were needed in all five learning communities; 2.6 percent;
- Security upgrades at every school; 3.3 percent;
- Physical education and athletics needs at all five high schools; 6.8 percent.
Soon after voters approved the bond, district officials and two architectural firms — Hunt and Caraway and Orcutt | Winslow — presented sample plans, timelines and school information during a December study session.
Hopi Elementary School was chosen as the top priority. It was deemed a priority because of its aging and crowded campus.
The Governing Board approved on consent the approval to purchase architectural services with Hunt and Caraway. The December agenda stated the architectural fees would range from 6.5-7.5 percent given the complexity of the project.
Also on Dec. 13, 2016, Hohokam Traditional School was designated as project No. 2, although Birdwell at that time explained Hohokam’s construction would not begin for several months. The Governing Board officially voted to move forward with Hohokam’s project in February 2017.
Pima Elementary was soon designated project No. 3. It is eyed to open with a new campus and new curriculum August 2018.
Outside of the major rebuilds, a number of SUSD campuses have seen work as well.
Cheyenne Traditional is a pre-kindergarten through eighth-grade school that had its renovations unanimously approved on Jan. 17, at an estimated cost of $7.6M.
On Jan. 17 the Governing Board also voted unanimously to approve its first bond sale in the amount of $45M, and purchase architect services from Orcutt | Winslow. The agenda stated Orcutt | Winslow will progress with planning and designing for the remodel and new construction projects on the Cheyenne Traditional School campus.
Orcutt | Winslow’s fees also range from 6.5-7.5 percent.
Read more at Scottsdale Independent.