School books, desks and boxes are tucked into many corners and hallways at the former Brimhall Junior High School in Mesa.
But in a few weeks, children in kindergarten through eighth grade will fill the space.
Brimhall Junior High School is being converted into Franklin at Brimhall Elementary School and Franklin Junior High School, two schools on one campus set to open when Mesa Unified School District begins the 2012-2013 school year on Aug. 8.
Franklin schools are back-to-basics schools offered in the Mesa Unified School District. The curriculum is rigorous and fast-paced, with students often learning a year ahead of peers their own ages. Students are taught in “whole group” formats, with one teacher at the front of the class instructing everyone at the same time.
They’re also popular with parents, with waiting lists for most grades at the district’s various Franklin campuses.
The Mesa governing board voted last school year to close Brimhall Junior High as a neighborhood school and move Franklin Junior High, Franklin Northeast Elementary and Franklin South Elementary onto the Brimhall site. Brimhall Junior High celebrated its 20th year last school year, but it was the lowest enrolled junior high campus.
Over the past few years, the district has been shrinking in enrollment, causing it to close campuses or convert them into other uses.
This is the second time in less than five years that the district has created a new Franklin site. Alma Elementary School was previously a neighborhood school, but opened as Franklin at Alma two years ago.
The program continues to grow. While there were 211 students at Franklin at Alma last school year, the district anticipates it will have 275 students there next year.
Enrollment at Franklin Northeast and Franklin South last school year combined was 957. The district is projecting enrollment at Franklin Elementary School at Brimhall – where Franklin Northeast and Franklin South students are being moved – to be more than 1,000.
Mesa resident Nicole Tarango’s son will be moving from the old Franklin Junior High campus – in portable buildings near Power Road and Adobe – to Brimhall.
“We’re excited about it. For one, it’s closer for us. I think he feels like maybe it’s going to be a little bit more of a regular junior high experience, just being at a bigger campus,” she said.
Amber Smithson will experience Brimhall from the elementary side. Her daughter will be in first grade.
She admits she was nervous about having the junior high and elementary school students on the same campus. But after a parent meeting in the spring and a tour, she’s happy with the district’s plans.
“The junior high and elementary are not going to start school at the same time or end. The junior high kids will already be in school when the elementary students arrive and they’ll be leaving before the other ones get out,” she said.
Her daughter is happy, too, about being on a bigger campus. She’s really only moving a few yards away from her former campus. Franklin South was located in portable buildings adjacent to Brimhall.
At Brimhall, “Everything is located inside. The library is all centrally located in the same building where the elementary students will be,” Smithson said. “She’s excited.”
Jeff Abrams, principal of the two schools on the Brimhall campus, said construction is ahead of schedule and should be complete by the end of the next week.
“Teachers are jumping to get in” to set up classrooms, he said.
There are just a few structural changes inside – converting lab space into two classrooms and lower bathroom fixtures for the smaller children. The bigger changes are outside.
There are new playgrounds for kindergarten and elementary-age students. Former tennis courts have been repainted to house new basketball courts for the junior high students.
“Anything out here, except the existing concrete, is new,” he said. The district also created new drop-off lanes for parents who drive children to school and a new fence surrounds the campus.
“The classrooms are classrooms. Everything is changed on the outside. What happens in the classrooms is always what happened at Franklins. It’s just different out here,” he said.
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