Scottsdale Schools discusses Yavapai future while selecting Hohokam as next bond project

Hohokam Elementary School (file photo)

Hohokam Elementary School has officially returned to the list of planned Scottsdale Unified School District bond projects as district officials ponder the next steps for one of its lowest attended schools.

The Scottsdale Unified School District Governing Board voted 4-1, with Governing Board President Patty Beckman dissenting, at its April 16 meeting to move forward with the Hohokam project, which will lead to its students relocating to Yavapai Elementary School, 701 N. Miller Road, during construction.

In November 2016, Scottsdale Schools voters approved a $229 million bond, which was partially earmarked to address failing infrastructure. Since the vote, two elementary schools have been rebuilt, while other school renovations and projects have been carried out.

Cherokee Elementary School is in the process of having its rebuild designed by local architects, Orcutt Winslow.

This is not the first time Hohokam Elementary, 8451 E. Oak St., was discussed as a part of the bond projects. Shortly after the passing of the bond, in December 2016, Hohokam was designated the second school to be addressed. The project, however, was canceled in June 2018 before construction work began due to the fall out and subsequent legal action with Hunt & Caraway Architects.

During an April 11 Governing Board study session, Superintendent Dr. John Kriekard laid out a plan to move Hohokam’s students to Yavapai, so that construction could begin on the campus as soon as the planning phase of the project was complete.

An architect, which the board will select through Mohave cooperative purchasing agreement and approved at a meeting in May, will do a feasibility study later in the year to recommend rebuild or remodel.

Dr. Kriekard anticipates the Hohokam process to follow what Cherokee went through in regards to community and staff outreach throughout the year, ultimately determining if the school needs a renovation or to be rebuilt.

Patty Beckman

While Ms. Beckman does support the upgrade to Hohokam, she said she dissented because she was dissatisfied with the involvement of the Yavapai community in the presented timeline.

She said with a possible Yavapai consolidation into the rebuilt Hohokam as part of Yavapai’s enrollment growth plan. If the school doesn’t reach a set number in enrollment by a specified date, the board could take action with consolidation.

Last November, Dr. Kriekard named Yavapai Elementary as one of the district’s four schools in risk of having too few of students to operate. At that time, the school had 262 students, and a plan was presented to give the schools two years to create a niche and attempt to draw students.

Ms. Beckman said closures should be a last resort because of the potential effects of closure and consolidation can have on students and neighborhoods, calling schools “the heart of the community.”

“I believe in the leadership of Dr. Kriekard. Every decision he makes is done with care and respect for the SUSD community,” Ms. Beckman said via email after the meeting.

John Kriekard

“I am grateful that Hohokam is receiving a well-deserved renovation or rebuild. I am also confident that as we navigate the process for all of our school bond projects, every stakeholder will have a voice along the way and the outcomes will be in the best interest of the students, parents and community members.”

Board member Jann-Michael Greenburg had similar concerns about relocation, asking Dr. Kriekard during the April 16 Governing Board meeting if moving students to Yavapai was the best option.

Dr. Kriekard and Dennis Roehler, director of facilities and operations, cited several benefits of relocating students such as costs, quicker construction and less disruption to teachers and students.

Dr. Kriekard also spoke to the impact renovations to Hohokam could have to the Coronado Learning Community as a whole. He said the administration floated the idea of moving Hohokam students to the Oak Learning Academy once Navajo Elementary School students returned to their school following its reconstruction.

This would lead, Dr. Kriekard said, to the district running two buildings when it would be better suited to operate just one.

With Yavapai on an enrollment growth plan, its days could be numbered depending on its growth.

Dr. Kriekard said while he would love to have numerous schools in the area as a “neighborhood school,” he also knows there might be a reality the district may face.

“There also comes a time when our responsibility to the taxpayer is to run schools at a number that is fair and responsible,” Dr. Kriekard said. “The per pupil expenditure to run Yavapai Elementary School right now is twice that of a school of 600 kids and that is why the growth plan was put into place.”

The district plans to ask parents which school they want to attend long term as a way to track enrollment at each, SUSD officials said.

Dr. Kriekard also said there are plans to “advertise the heck out of” Hohokam to try and fill it, and a hope to do the same to Yavapai, if it can reach its enrollment goals.

Mr. Roehler estimates construction of Hohokam could take 12 months with a worst-case scenario of May 2021 completion for the entire project.

News Services Reporter Josh Martinez can be contacted at jmartinez@newszap.com or at 623-445-2738

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