District officials told the public in meetings at Haley, Weinberg and Patterson elementary schools that in addition to considering boundary changes and building an elementary school in the area, they would like to repurpose Weinberg Elementary School into the district’s second honors academy.
Furthermore, they said the district is studying a possible additional high school.
The proposed changes are part of the district addressing its shifting populations. The district is experiencing declining enrollment overall, though it is the second-largest in Arizona.
Despite that, the area the district calls its Val Vista corridor, which includes the portion of Gilbert in the district, continues to grow. That has put Haley, Weinberg and Patterson near or above capacity.
The district presented its four boundary-change proposals to families and invited families to make others or ask questions. Whatever boundaries are adopted will not take effect until the 2020-21 school year, officials said.
District Chief Financial Officer Lana Berry said the district is working to identify a site for a new elementary school in the area, one with a large capacity to handle additional growth. If Weinberg is made into a gifted education academy, the new school would take over Weinberg’s attendance boundaries.
The desire to convert Weinberg comes from the demand for gifted services. The district has one gifted academy on its west side, Knox Gifted Academy, but that school is not large enough for the demand. As a result, the district offers satellite services at three schools until such time as an academy on the east side can open.
Berry said the governor has authorized money for the district to build a high school. It still requires the Legislature to provide the funds.
She said the funding would not be enough to fully build the school, so it, along with the construction of the proposed elementary school, would be part of a bond proposal.
Berry said the school would be smaller than the district’s current schools and more specialized in its offerings. Three of the five high schools have more than 3,000 students, and Hamilton is the largest school in the state with more than 4,000 students, according to the Arizona Interscholastic Association’s enrollment figures.
The district is studying where to place the school, but the site could be anywhere in the district, Berry said.
While the proposals have been discussed with the governing board, a recommendation will not go forward to the board until May 8, Elementary Education Assistant Superintendent Frank Narducci said. The board is expected to take action at its May 22 meeting.
The district will continue to take feedback from the public through April 19.