GSN Staff Writer

In a move that will impact some Gilbert families, the Chandler Unified School District administration is recommending a three-tiered plan to the school board that includes resetting some elementary school boundaries, building a new elementary school and creating a second gifted academy.

Disproportionate student distribution prompted the recommendation after several of the district’s elementary schools on the district’s east side – including a part of western Gilbert – were approaching capacity.

Haley, Patterson and Weinberg elementary schools are all situated along the Val Vista Corridor, an area south of Loop 202 that has recently seen large road expansion projects and new home developments and includes part of Gilbert.

Enrollment rates have peaked and are expected to continue rising by approximately 1,000 students over the next eight years.

Here is a look at the details.

Elementary #31

A new elementary school, currently dubbed Elementary #31, would accommodate the students, administration and staff currently located at Weinberg Elementary.
If the recommendation is approved, the shift will take place before 2020-21 school year begins.

Funding could come from a potential $29.3 million bond election. On June 12, the board is scheduled to discuss the bond and whether to hold the election this year.

Of the projected total, $70 million would be set aside to purchase the land for an elementary school and potentially a high school that would not be built in the near future. It also would cover construction costs for both facilities.

“The bond will be critical to do this,” said CUSD Chief Financial Officer Lana Berry.

The election could also cover other district expenses, including; safety measures, technology, furniture and equipment, transportation, non-instructional renovations and upgrades and energy management.

Part of the recommendation for the new school allows current Weinberg students to be highly involved in developing its culture. Students will lend a hand in deciding on school colors and mascot, and will also help create the school song.

Gifted academy

CUSD currently has 4,000 total students who are eligible for gifted learning services but due to limited resources and space, only 1,000 are enrolled in them.

Because of the vacancy at Weinberg Elementary after the new school is built, the district will have a facility primed for a new gifted academy, called Weinberg Gifted Academy.

The academy will serve students on the district’s east side who are currently utilizing satellite gifted learning sites throughout CUSD.

The addition of the academy will let the district offer a choice through open enrollment of attending either site. CUSD will also provide dual busing through depot sites for both academies if needed.

The recommendation also allows the grandfathering of 2018-19 and 2019-20 enrollments at gifted satellites through the 2024-25 school year, so current students could pick between the two academies.

“If both gifted academies are at capacity, an optional gifted satellite may be considered at an elementary site that has space to accommodate those students,” said Frank Narducci, the assistant superintendent for elementary instruction.

Families and stake holders residing in communities that could be impacted if the recommendation is approved can expect to receive a formal letter in the coming week.

The board will vote on this recommendation May 22.

Boundary changes

A team of administrators and demographers recommended three school boundary shifts to ease overcrowding.

Students and families residing in the one-mile block surrounded by Queen Creek, Ocotillo, Gilbert and Cooper roads would be repositioned from Haley Elementary to Ryan Elementary.

The second shift redirects the eastern half mile of vacant land bordered by Ocotillo, Lindsay and Chandler Heights roads as well as Val Vista Drive from Ryan Elementary to Weinberg.

Students in a square mile bordered by Hunt, Riggs, Recker and Higley Roads will be moved from Patterson Elementary to Riggs Elementary.

If approved by the board at its May 22 meeting, the boundary changes will go into effect in 2020-2021.

Currently enrolled students and students enrolled in the 2019-20 school year will have the option to be grandfathered into Haley Elementary or Patterson Elementary through the 2025-26 school year.

Students new to the area will be enrolled at their boundary school, unless choice school options are utilized. If capacity allows, open enrollment will continue to be an option.

Narducci added that many parents have expressed concerns the shift is fast-approaching, but he offered a reassurance to them.

“We have never created boundaries and just created no options for families that wanted to continue their enrollments at the schools where the current boundaries are,” he said.