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Mesa Public Schools weighs overcrowded high schools, aging facilities as it develops master plan

Students, school
Posted at 4:31 PM, Mar 04, 2020
and last updated 2020-03-04 20:12:04-05

MESA, AZ — Overcrowded high school campuses, underutilized junior high schools, and aging facilities. These are three big issues facing Mesa Public Schools as the district decides where to spend $300 million worth of bond money, approved by voters in 2018.

Portable classrooms are now a campus staple for several high schools in Mesa, trying to make due with whatever limited space they have left. Four of the district's six high schools are considered "overutilized."

Red Mountain High School has the highest rate at 125 percent, meaning it has about 3,500 students on a campus that best supports closer to 2,800.

Overcrowding is one of several issues brought to light in a massive, 154-page report presented to the Governing Board during a special study session on February 25.

"I'm not sure the district's ever done a deep dive like this before," said Scott Thompson, Assistant Superintendent of Business and Support Services.

The year-long project hones in on the current state of district facilities, and while the buildings themselves are in relatively good condition, not all are meeting the educational needs of students.

Nine of the district's 54 elementary schools are maxed out while nine others still have room to grow. Most of the junior high schools have too much extra space.

Thompson says district enrollment is actually declining. That, coupled with an aging population and moving ninth-graders from the junior highs to the high schools, means the board now has some tough choices to make.

Options include building another high school, additions to current campuses, boundary adjustments, reducing the number of junior high schools and enhancing programs to attract more families.

The district, stressing this is the start of a long process that will involve the community.

"What does the ideal school look like? How many kids are in it? What sort of programs does it offer? What kind of space does it utilize? What kind of furniture might be in it?," said Thompson. "All of those things are really important decisions that are yet to be determined."