Construction under way to prepare Mesa schools for ninth-graders - East Valley Tribune: East Valley Local News

Construction under way to prepare Mesa schools for ninth-graders

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Posted: Tuesday, December 7, 2010 1:05 pm | Updated: 7:54 pm, Thu Dec 9, 2010.

Construction crews are busy at three Mesa high schools as additions and renovations take place in preparation for more students.

In August, the schools will join Mesa's three other comprehensive high schools with full classes of freshmen. For decades, Mesa's high schools had sophomores, juniors and seniors. But the Mesa Unified School District governing board decided earlier this year to move ninth-graders from the junior highs to the high schools to obtain a format more common with surrounding districts and charter schools. The full transition took place this year at Westwood, Dobson and Skyline high schools, with some ninth-graders choosing to participate in a smaller transitional program at Mesa (209 students) and Mountain View (36 students) high schools.

In total, 2,500 ninth-graders moved to the high schools this year.

Next year, about 2,300 freshmen will move to Mesa, Mountain View and Red Mountain high schools. The district is using bond money voters approved in 2005 to fund the $16 million construction projects and renovations.

At Mesa High, crews are creating a 29-classsroom building, principal James Souder said in an e-mail. The building will feature a state-of-the-art teaching kitchen to support the school's career and technical education culinary classes, as well as a video production set and computer labs for business classes.

Red Mountain High School is also getting a new classroom building.

The annex includes 28 classrooms, with science labs, a lecture hall and locker rooms. Most of the rooms will be used for math and science, principal Gerald Slemmer wrote in an e-mail.

"We have a number of programs specifically designed to prepare students for employment in the 21st century. They will include pre-engineering, health sciences and bio-tech. It will also allow us to acclimate our ninth-graders to the demands of high school academics at a younger age," he wrote.

Rick Michalek, the district's operations director, said Mountain View is getting a 27-classroom building that includes four science labs and 23 classrooms.

Michalek said all the construction will be done by July. Just last summer, crews built a new addition to Skyline High School and renovated Westwood and Dobson. Portable buildings were also added at Dobson.

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