The New Year is a good time to update you on the journey to completion of our New K-8 School. Like any major pathway, it is marked with both progress, and some unforeseen challenges along the travels. The CORE Construction/Swaim & Associates Architecture teams are busy working with us to move the project forward, and much progress is being made. Much of the foundation is laid, and walls are going up. Additionally, we are in the final stages of determining attendance boundaries for the new school. Please know that this process has been careful, methodical, and as inclusive as possible. In the end, the target outcome is that all of our schools have capacity, infrastructure, instructional resources, and highly qualified professional staff to deliver a premier education of excellence to all students. The new principal has been identified. Mrs. Shelly Lizardi is an accomplished, experienced, dynamic, and student centered educator who will certainly provide strong leadership to our new school.
In any journey, and along most every roadway, there are some bumps that emerge upon your field of view. I must share one such bump, which we have encountered and will overcome together. As you may be aware, the agreement with Rancho Sahuarita Company is basically that they donated about twenty-one (21) acres of land upon which the new school sits. We are grateful to the Rancho Sahuarita organization for yet another act of support for our schools. Over the years, they have donated multiple school sites, totaling dozens of acres, overtly supported our school bond and override measures, and been actively engaged in school and community programs. Their organizational vision and leadership have contributed much to our community’s growth and progress. The agreement states that the School District is responsible for building the entire school site, including some public and private infrastructure. The Rancho Sahuarita Company is responsible for building the approximately 0.4 miles of road from Sahuarita Road, going south to the site. Furthermore, they must include bringing public infrastructure along the road, including to the school site. This includes water, power, and sewer lines. The District is paying our share of $1.8 million for this necessary infrastructure, approximately half of this total cost. The Rancho Sahuarita Company is responsible to pay for the other part.
We were recently notified that the Rancho Sahuarita Company will not complete the road project in time for the anticipated August 2018 opening of the school. In all accuracy, the Rancho Sahuarita Company does have a year from its Town approvals to complete the road.
In the last two months or so, we have been working to find contingency plans, so that we might be able to still complete the project by August.
However, despite our best and most creative efforts, the costs, both monetary and operational, of doing so, really make it prohibitive, and not in the best overall interests of our project and service mission. Therefore, after careful and extensive thought, it is now necessary to adjust the projected opening date of the new school to January 2019. Furthermore, given inherent logistical challenges and in the best interests of all students and staff, we are planning to open in January 2019, with only the K-5 configuration. The designated students in grades 6-8 will complete the 2018-19 school year in the school of origin before transitioning to the new school 2019-20. In addition, the District will support the SMS leadership to ensure the best accommodation of space and programming for the additional year. Although I’m disappointed about this development, we will adapt and overcome. First, the staffing process, and planned assignment of students to classes for the new school will continue without interruption. Given the appointment of the principal, we can proceed with several key details, largely as if the school were opening in August. The only difference is that the year will start on the Main Campus, and a mid year shift, largely over the holiday break, will take place for grades K-5. Basically we will move the classes to their new home in the new school, at that time. In fact, we have previously opened a new school in the middle of the year. Anza Trail K-8 School was opened in January 2007. Once the boundaries are solidified, Mrs. Lizardi will proceed with the construction team in regards to operational details, and also in regular outreach to students and staff in regards to school norms, colors, mascots, and beginning the process of establishing the new traditions and school community. We’ll continue with frequent updates, such as through our regular Community Conversations. The next one is scheduled for Tuesday, January 30, 2018.
In summary, there are many positive elements to report, and we are making strong progress on many counts. Furthermore, we are so grateful to our community for your sacrifice in making this new school possible. Although the delayed school opening is unfortunate, we believe that it is better to open it in the proper way, and that the delay is worth the overall best interests of the project, school, families, and students. I extend my gratitude for the tremendous trust which you place in our team, every day that you send your children to our schools. It is a trust which we take with great seriousness, and strive to honor each and every day.
We will continue with regular updates and communications as the project moves forward.
Manuel O. Valenzuela, Ed.D