Higley faces tough school design choice - East Valley Tribune: East Valley Education News

Higley faces tough school design choice

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Posted: Saturday, November 4, 2006 7:49 am | Updated: 3:40 pm, Fri Oct 7, 2011.

Guidelines approved by the state School Facilities Board on Thursday put the Higley Unified School District in the situation of having to decide whether to redesign a school or pay additional funds to proceed with its existing design.

That’s because the board, which administers funds for school construction, is limiting the number of buildings the state will pay for. Before Thursday’s action, school districts were limited in square footage funded by the state, not the number of buildings.

The change is affecting Higley’s Chaparral Elementary School, currently under construction to open in fall 2007. The school will have four buildings totaling 94,710 square feet.

But under the new guidelines, the state will only fund two buildings for schools with a square footage between 60,000 and 125,000 square feet.

Anticipating adoption of the new standards, the School Facilities Board asked Higley to provide the additional $587,000 to use the current design, said Fred Stone, assistant superintendent of business services for the district.

Waiting to redesign the school would have meant a “delay we couldn’t afford to take,” Stone said.

In the past, the district repeatedly used the same design for its new schools to save on architect fees, but may change the design for future schools to comply with the new guidelines.

“We’re already looking at what schools might look like in the future,” Stone said. “No decisions (have been) made, no presentations given to board, but we’re looking at a twobuilding concept. As information is shared with board, we may end up moving in that direction for future schools.”

The Gilbert Unified School District will not see much of an effect from the new guidelines because its elementary schools are only one building, and J.O. Combs Unified School District has already changed its prototype for new elementary schools in anticipation of the new guidelines.

Kristen Landry, a spokeswoman for the School Facilities Board, said the new guidelines are in response to the inflationary costs of construction.

Keith Vaughan, director of community development for Gilbert schools, said his district’s elementary schools are built with one building because of “stranger danger,” but it also costs less to build a school with fewer buildings.

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