San Tan Learning building new, larger campus in Gilbert - East Valley Tribune: Gilbert

San Tan Learning building new, larger campus in Gilbert

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Posted: Monday, February 10, 2014 9:00 am

Students who attend San Tan Learning Center in Gilbert will see a couple of changes, one small and one large, when they head back to school after this summer.

San Tan Principal Kristofer Sippel said the former is a switch in the school’s name from San Tan Learning Center to San Tan Charter School, a switch he said stems from a bit of confusion for parents enrolling their students. While the term learning center encompasses much of what the school provides — a Montessori preschool, an elementary school and a middle school — Sippel said the name was opaque for parents.

“It left for some ambiguity,” he said.

San Tan is transitioning to the new name at the moment and will have it locked in officially at the beginning of the 2014-15 school year. That does lead into the second alteration the school is undergoing, as students who arrive for their first day of classes after the summer break will see the new name on a whole new facility.

Recently, San Tan announced it will leave its current confines at 1475 S. Higley Road and move into a $12 million bond-funded facility it is building in the Morrison Ranch development. Located at the southwest corner of Recker and Elliot roads, the new school building will be much larger than the current school site — 35,000 square feet to be precise — and allows San Tan to educate up to 700 students.

“We’ve outgrown it (current campus) and the time has come to build our new home,” he said.

All of this comes approximately eight years when Sippel and his wife, Rita, opened up their first school at Mission Community Church. It was a Montessori preschool with 43 students, including their son who was the impetus for opening the school in the first place. He was about to begin his education, and the Sippels couldn’t find quite the right place for him to go, so they decided to use their background in education and start their own school.

What ensued was eight years of solid growth that saw San Tan grow from the 43 preschool students to more than 500 students from preschool through eighth grade.

“It’s been quite the journey,” he said.

The size of the Morrison Ranch site gives the school a few advantages as it continues its growth and expansion.

The classrooms, for example, will be between 100 and 200 square feet larger to encompass 700 square feet in all, which allows for an increase in students in each classroom and additional amenities. Similarly, the new campus will have a few other features that the current site lacks, for example the computer lab that will serve as a step up from the current computer carts the school employs now.

A truly sizable difference between the current school and what Sippel calls “San Tan 2.0” is the addition of a high school-sized gymnasium that can host volleyball, basketball and other events. Accompanying that is an outdoor field the school can use for flag football.

“There’s some big sports programs we can offer now,” he said.

Plus, the new campus acts as an additional incentive for parents to send their students to San Tan. As Sippel put it, as the number of charter schools expands, and the quality of the facilities improve, a location in a strip mall just won’t cut it anymore.

Construction just began this month, and the goal is to have the new campus completed in June. Sippel said just getting to this point has been a bit surreal — he said he and his wife will pause sometimes and just look around at what’s happened around them — but the entire process has been quite rewarding as well.

“It’s so awesome because Rita and I feel this is our calling,” he said.

For more information about San Tan Learning Center, visit santanlearningcenter.com or call (480) 222-0811.

• Contact writer: (480) 898-5647 or emungenast@evtrib.com.

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