The thousands of residents who have been moving into Chandler each year make several choices about their new community, including where to send their kids to school.
And that’s not just because the Chandler Unified School District is opening two new campuses in a few weeks.
Schools of choice — private and charter — are adding dozens of classrooms to the educational mix that is Chandler.
From Risen Savior Lutheran School in south Chandler adding a grade level, to Paragon Science Academy Elementary School opening a new campus for about 300 students near Ray Road and Loop 101, parents are finding plenty of options.
Risen Savior started with 88 children six years ago and will have 330 students when classes begin July 31. In October, the school completed a second floor to accommodate the growth, director Linda Pauley said.
“I’m wondering what’s going to happen next year. We’ve had three building campaigns in six years. I cannot build any more. We are maxed out on space,” she said.
Paragon will serve students in grades kindergarten through eighth, said Mehmet Argin, who is overseeing the campus at the former University of Phoenix site.
“There are a lot of kids and the parents are interested parents. They are looking for better education,” Argin said.
AZ Compass will open with seventh- through ninth-graders on the existing campus of Skyline Prep and Arts Academy on Warner Road. Great Hearts Academies-Chandler Prep will add 11th and 12th grade to its campus on Arizona Avenue.
Just to demonstrate, Chandler High School at one point served 60 square miles for the district. Now Chandler has four high schools, including Perry, which opened last year. It will add a junior class this year.
While the district is putting new campuses in south Chandler, an increase in charter school choices in the north — along with an aging population — are making an impact on enrollment in those neighborhood schools, district spokesman Terry Locke said.
“To some degree, certainly in our northern boundaries you’ll see a little erosion of enrollment. It’s not just the charters. It is the aging of the community,” he said. “It means schools have to market and make sure they’re (parents) aware. Once we have a family in the door, we don’t typically lose them.”
Like other districts with charter schools, Chandler competes for its students.
“It’s a matter of not knowing who moves into a house and then they choose a charter school before we have a chance. That’s the difficulty for schools with all the mobility in the districts.”
But it’s a healthy struggle, said Katie Nutter, director of communications for the Goldwater Institute. A recent report from the institute points out the positive impact Arizona’s options have on children’s education.
“When you have a school competing with a district school, the district schools improve in a much more rapid pace,” Nutter said. “Charters themselves do great stuff and they spur district schools to do great stuff.”
Already in Chandler are several religious and secular private schools, many serving young learners, in addition to more than a dozen charter schools and the school district’s 40 campuses.
The Jewish community may have another option in a year if plans to open a day school for the 2009-10 school year at Chabad of the East Valley are completed. The $4 million campus will complement services at the Jewish Community Center in the East Valley, which now serves children from preschool through fifth grade, said Rabbi Mendy Deitsch.