Parents of students who attend the East Valley Academy expressed their dismay Tuesday night about plans to move the program to a proposed Powell Community Learning Center at the current Powell Junior High School site.
The parents made their comments during a public hearing about recommended changes for the Mesa Unified School District next school year. The five-member elected governing board is considering seven proposals from the district administration.
Tuesday night was the second public hearing on the matter. Next Tuesday, the governing board will hold a study session to talk about what members have heard from the public.
A final public hearing will be Jan. 12, the same day the board hopes to vote.
One proposal is to close Powell Junior High School, 855 W. Eighth Ave., and use the site as a community center that includes community education, community college courses, child care, a possible health clinic and a number of current Mesa district programs, including the East Valley Academy and Crossroads, a combined computer-based and teacher-based credit recovery program.
These are 261 students attending the East Valley Academy this year. It is a Mesa Unified School District facility that sits adjacent to the East Valley Institute of Technology, which is its own school district but is located in Mesa. EVIT offers a variety of career-related courses for high school students, from nursing to car repair to culinary classes.
The EVA building belongs to the district, said district spokeswoman Kathy Bareiss.
Superintendent Mike Cowan told the audience Tuesday night that by moving the East Valley Academy program the district could possibly find a revenue source by selling or leasing out the current EVA building.
The East Valley Academy offers a small setting for students in 10th through 12th grades who can attend the academy half the day for academic courses, then move over to EVIT for technical training or go elsewhere for internships or work programs, Bareiss said.
With the block schedule, students can move in and out of the school throughout the year, she said.
One comment to the board Tuesday night was from EVA counselor Carol Patterson. She suggested moving the Crossroads program to EVA, which has eight empty classrooms and a state-of-the-art computer lab.
“We have a cafeteria on campus and a Headstart day care,” Patterson said. “The buses already come from every high school to EVIT and EVA. The trend is for small learning communities. That’s what EVA is. Everyone knows everybody’s name.”
Her comments — and those by other EVA supporters — drew lots of applause and cheers.
EVA student Yessenia Urnberg questioned her ability to finish her program if it’s moved.
“EVA is not just a credit recovery program, it is an accredited high school,” she said. “We are working toward health care and veterinary careers. We are driven, self-motivated people who made a decision in eighth grade because we knew what we wanted to do. We made this decision when we were 12 or 13 and most of us have all stuck to it.”
EVA’s registrar Susan Schuller questioned any decision to sell the EVA property.
“In an economy we have now, I don’t believe most of you have put your house on the market. It’s not a good time to unload and certainly not your premier property,” she said. “In the game of Monopoly, Park Place and Broadway are what you want to own. We are Park Place. Bring over Crossroads. They will be Broadway. I have a huge amount of kids who come in from (Tempe) McClintock. We are the last stop on the light rail. I have kids from (Scottsdale) Saguaro. I have kids from Chandler. I have kids from Gilbert. We do bring money into the district and we’re doing it at a bargain rate ...”
Sara Desonarais, a student at EVA, spoke in support of the school because of the small class sizes available there.
“We have 19 students in our classes and not 30. We get personal tutoring and I don’t think that happens at other high schools,” she said.
Parents and staff also spoke about transportation issues from Powell to EVIT, or vice versa, instead of having the convenience now available by having the academy near EVIT.
The district had previously announced plans to phase out its Health Science High School, one program that was under the East Valley Academy. No new students are entering the program, but students currently attending can finish out their degree, the district has said.
EVIT continues to offer health science and nursing services courses for high school students.
Other speakers addressed the proposal to take ninth grade students and move them to high schools. Supporters of Rhodes Junior High World Academy disagree with this plan, saying it will disrupt the learning environment and remove the role models that ninth-graders provide to the campus.