Deep within a Gilbert neighborhood on a plot of land once zoned for apartments, a two-story, collegiate-looking building is taking shape.
Come August, the school will be home to more than 175 students.
Construction on Gilbert Christian High School started last summer. Today, the building is up, with a brick façade nearly complete, the basketball court awaits flooring and what appears to be miles of cable making its way into the walls and ceilings.
The nearly $10 million facility is being funded by a private foundation which "desired to create the top facility in the state," Gilbert Christian Schools Superintendent Jim Desmarchais said, while giving a tour of the campus last week.
To that end, the building will have wireless access throughout, a regulation-size basketball court, an artificial turf football field and interactive white boards in each of the 25 classrooms.
"We're using the technology children love. They've never lived without technology. That's the natural way they learn," Desmarchais said.
The building is about 75,000 square feet, including a basement that holds the locker rooms, a weight room and coaches' offices, and a cafeteria where food will be brought in from various vendors. The school capacity is 400 students.
Gilbert Christian Schools currently operates a preschool through high school campus in the middle of Agritopia, a residential community south of Loop 202 and west of Higley Road in Gilbert. The new high school is located east of Higley Road, about one mile from the current campus. With the high school moving, there's room at the Agritopia campus for more students in the younger grades, Desmarchais said. About 80 additional students have enrolled in that school.
"What's happened in Arizona is we've gone to school choice. Parents are shopping around. With the cuts to public schools, parents say, ‘Let's see what's best for my child.' They've become consumers," Desmarchais said.
The student-to-teacher ratio at Gilbert Christian Schools is 18-1. Even though the student population will be small, Desmarchais said students will have several athletic and extracurricular options, including Advanced Placement classes, choir, drama, football and more. Gilbert Christian High School won the 1A boys basketball title this year.
"When you see (students) leave public high schools, it's often because of the size," Desmarchais said. With the small school, "we know the child."
Soon-to-be senior Molly van Rijn, 17, has attended Gilbert Christian Schools since kindergarten. She's in awe of the new campus and what it will mean for her last year of high school.
"I think it's going to be great. As you walk up to it, it looks like a college. It sets the tone: It's time to learn," van Rijn said.
A member of the school's varsity basketball team, she admits she's most excited about the new court.
"Basketball is really a big part of our school, so that will be fun," she said.
While she did think about going to a bigger high school, she felt her faith was leading her to stay at Gilbert Christian High School.
And now she'll be part of the first class to graduate from the new campus.
"I hope our class sets a good example and leaves a legacy," she said.
Gilbert Christian Schools’ information meeting for parents
When: 9 a.m. Thursday
Where: current campus 1424 S. Promenade Lane
Information: (480) 279-1366 or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org