New uses for Mesa schools considered - East Valley Tribune: East Valley Local News

New uses for Mesa schools considered

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Posted: Tuesday, October 6, 2009 8:57 pm | Updated: 3:07 am, Sat Oct 8, 2011.

Reconfiguring grade levels, repurposing low-enrollment elementary schools and making boundary adjustments for subsets of Mesa students were some of the topics discussed Tuesday as the Mesa Unified School District continues talks of possible change for the 2009-10 school year.

Ninth-graders, currently at the district's junior high schools, could move to the high schools through a two-phase program.

Sixth-graders from the elementary schools could move to the Mesa junior high schools.

Some elementary schools could merge, while others are repurposed and transformed into a different educational model.

These possibilities were discussed Tuesday as Mesa district officials talked about their Defining the Future initiative. The district is grappling with declining enrollment and state funding, and is looking to find different ways to retain and attract students for the 67,000-student district.

"The devil is in the details," said Superintendent Mike Cowan, as he discussed several possible boundary adjustments for small subsets of students. "We've overlapped in different ways (with current boundaries). If approved, we need to go back to boundary changes."

Board members also expressed a desire to not lock the district into one educational model. One school could be a K-8 model, while another could be turned into a 6-12 model. Several proposals were given to board members in a handout, along with attendance maps, arguments for and against changes, and community survey results and responses from a new district Web site asking opinions on the initiative.

"This has to be seen from the community as something to be done to enhance," instead of the district being in an adversarial role, said board president Michael Hughes. "If (parents) aren't involved, it's never going to go. Let's not get caught up because we're so big we have to be unified."

Guerrero Elementary School could be transformed into the Guerrero Educational Center for grades 6-12. This center could accommodate students from Crossroads, East Valley Academy and McKellips Learning Center, and could also house credit recovery programs for west area schools, according to one proposal.

Frost, Jordan, Pomeroy or Sirrine elementary schools, which have declining enrollment, could be turned into a regional middle or senior high school. The school could be an alternative to a large, traditional setting for grades 6-12, according to another proposal.

One of these four elementary schools could also be turned into an advanced elementary or elementary/middle school.

Jefferson Elementary School could be changed into the East Mesa Humanities Academy, a traditional liberal arts school for grades 6-12. This school could focus on an "integrated liberal arts curriculum providing an in-depth education in Western democratic traditions, literature and philosophy," and students could get an opportunity to enter college with most introductory-level courses finished, according to another proposal.

Roosevelt Elementary School could turn into the Roosevelt Traditional Campus, providing students in grades K-8 with a "highly structured, rigorous school environment," according to another proposal.

And finally, Powell Junior High School could be organized as an "educational mall," offering multiple programs at one location. A portion of the campus could be an early college site, while another part of the campus could be used for science, technology and math instruction.

"If we need some movement for next year, we have to move," Hughes said. "We have to accelerate this."

District officials tentatively set a Nov. 5 date for an extended study session where parents could come and discuss options with the school board from 5:30 p.m. to 9 p.m.

"We have to put some time into this," Hughes said. "If we don't, it will come back to haunt us."

Viable options with estimated costs and savings for the 2009-10 school year will be available at this study session, Cowan said.

Community members are encouraged to continue giving input at the Defining the Future Web site, at  

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