New school year in Gilbert brings changes - East Valley Tribune: News

New school year in Gilbert brings changes

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Posted: Sunday, August 9, 2009 9:14 pm | Updated: 2:57 am, Sat Oct 8, 2011.

The Gilbert and Higley school districts have new school openings, new programs planned and four new principals in place.

It's back-to-school Monday for Gilbert and Higley students.

Each district has a new school opening, new programs planned and four new principals in place.

In the Gilbert Unified School District, Campo Verde High School will open its doors Monday to about 800 freshmen and sophomores and 51 teachers, said principal Jared Ryan. The school is in south Gilbert off Germann Road and Val Vista Drive.

"With school opening it's bittersweet," said Ryan, the former principal of the Gilbert Learning Center. "The process of building has been a real challenge. Now is the time to say the proof is in the pudding. All of our hard work is going to show in the next couple of years."

The Gilbert district's fifth and final high school is offering the district's first Project Lead the Way Biomedical Sciences program. The four-year college-prep program is designed to expose students to medical careers, in partnership with nearby Mercy Gilbert Medical Center.

Campo Verde High was built with several "green" elements around campus, including a synthetic turf football field, classroom motion-detector lights, and shaded walkways and windows.

About 1,500 students and family members attended an open house Wednesday night, and Ryan said the "biggest battle" now is, "How do we keep the momentum alive?"

Besides Ryan, the Gilbert district has three other new principals.

Ryan was replaced at the Gilbert Learning Center by Chad Fitzgerald. Fitzgerald previously was dean of students at the district's alternative school.

Ashland Ranch Elementary School will have new principal Bill Roth. Roth was former assistant principal at Highland High School.

Pioneer Elementary School welcomes new principal Mike Davis. Davis was assistant principal at South Valley Junior High School.

In the Higley Unified School District, Centennial Elementary School will open its doors to about 750 kindergarten- to eighth-grade students, and 42 teachers, said principal Debbie Ybarra. The school is in southeast Gilbert, between Germann and Queen Creek roads, west of Power Road, in the Power Ranch community.

"I think the most exciting thing is being able to open the school with technology," said Ybarra, who opened Gilbert's Ashland Ranch Elementary nine years ago. "That's the world these kids live in these days. What an incredible way for these kids to be in tune with their needs."

Centennial, the Higley district's eighth elementary school, will have an interactive white board in every classroom, laptops for teachers and two portable computer labs with 40 laptops to move between classrooms, Ybarra said.

Centennial will be home to the district's new all-day gifted program. Third- through fifth-graders will fill three gifted classrooms, Ybarra said.

Forty preschoolers are also expected for the district's new half-day kindergarten prep program for 4 and 5 year olds at Centennial. The program costs $275 a month per child.

Centennial's new technology can also be found at four other Higley elementary schools, which were retrofitted over the summer, said Steve Nance, Higley's director of elementary curriculum.

"We're hoping the entire district will have this (new technology) in the next two years," Nance said.

Williams Field High School, which opened in 2007, will welcome seniors this year for the first time.

Chaparral Elementary School has 14 new classrooms for students this year. Higley Elementary and Middle School has a new parking lot for bus drop-off and additional staff parking.

Higley High School is nearly complete with a $5.6 million face-lift, including a revitalized courtyard, new amphitheater and a new athletic complex building.

Higley High will also be home to the district's new alternative education program to help students struggling in school.

Besides Ybarra, the Higley district has three additional new principals.

Dawne Branham-Turcotte will take the helm at Power Ranch Elementary School. Last year, she was Power Ranch's assistant principal.

Susan Powell is the new principal at Gateway Pointe Elementary School. Powell came to Higley from the Mesa Unified School District.

Cortina Elementary School welcomes new principal Cort Monroe, who also previously worked for the Mesa district.

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