Media center renovations approved for Higley, Williams Field high schools

Higley USD
Higley USD's governing board approved renovations to media centers at the district's two high schools. (Courtesy Higley USD)

Higley USD's governing board approved renovations to media centers at the district's two high schools. (Courtesy Higley USD)

A plan to turn the media centers at Higley and Williams Field high schools into something like college student unions received approval from the Higley USD governing board May 13 after strong scrutiny.

The board approved on a 4-1 vote a contract for Rytan Construction to receive the contract to do the renovations starting next week at a cost of $995,816. Board Vice President Kristina Reese gave the dissenting vote.

The media centers will be renovated to include cafe food service, video gaming, group meeting rooms and some office space, among other things, while still providing traditional library functions. The idea is to draw more students in, district officials said.

However, Reese expressed concerns about costs, staffing and equity between what is being done at each school, particularly in access.

In contrast, board member Greg Wojtovich said the revisions felt more like a classroom addition than getting the media centers to be the hubs of the campuses like student unions should be. He said he wanted more student services consolidated into the space. He also expressed concerns about disparities between the Higley and Williams Field centers.

“I want to see this is the pulse of this school,” he said. “I want to see the enthusiasm. I want to see something when I walk in. When I see these drawings, it’s just another hallway.”

Board member Scott Glover said he believed the new media centers would be big improvements over what the schools have now.

The money to pay for the renovation comes from previously sold bonds, and voters approved a reallocation of the uses of those bonds in November to include the project, Superintendent Mike Thomason said.

Thomason added he would love to have the funds and space to build bigger student unions, but those considerations limit the projects’ scale.

Budget revision

The governing board approved by unanimous vote a budget revision that comes primarily from additional enrollment in the district.

Average daily membership in the district grew by 537.263 students from what was projected for the original budget to 14,976.97. ADM is the total enrollment of fractional students and full-time students, minus withdrawals, of each school day through the first 100 days in session.

The maintenance and operations budget grew by $3.42 million to $85.56 million.

The unrestricted capital budget increased by more than $445,000 to $24.24 million.

Other actions

The board approved updates to the 2020-21 school year calendar and approved the calendars through 2024-25.

Food service prices will be increased $0.05 per meal to allow the district to break even on the service. Chartwells, a division of Compass Group USA, was awarded a renewal of the service contract.

The board ratified past longevity pay from fiscal years 2017-18 and 2018-19. The action was to bring the district in line with the auditor general’s desires on how it would be paid, and future such pay will be approved beforehand.
By Tom Blodgett

Editor, Gilbert

Raised in Arizona, Tom Blodgett has spent more than 30 years in journalism in Arizona and joined Community Impact Newspaper in July 2018 to launch the Gilbert edition. He is a graduate of Arizona State University, where he served as an instructional professional in the Walter Cronkite School of Journalism and Mass Communication from 2005-19 and remains editorial adviser to The State Press, the university's independent student media outlet.