District leaders see first blush of Hopi, Cheyenne renovations

Traffic flow and parking at Scottsdale Unified School District has been a point of conversation during school rebuild plans. (photo by Melissa Fittro)

The future look and layout of Hopi Elementary School and Cheyenne Traditional School are beginning to take place, as district leaders got a first glimpse into the plans May 4.

During a special Scottsdale Unified School District Governing Board meeting held at Mohave District Annex, 8490 E. Jackrabbit Road, the architecture entities in charge of each of the school remodels presented their initial plans.

In November 2016, district voters approved a $229 million bond to fund the rebuild of seven crumbling elementary schools, in addition to other infrastructure projects such as football fields, safety and technology needs, and improvements at Cheyenne Traditional.

Brian Robichaux, president of Hunt and Caraway Architects, has been charged with what district officials say is the most challenging of the seven rebuilds: Hopi Elementary School.

Hopi Elementary, 5110 E. Lafayette Blvd. in Phoenix, houses about 850 kindergarten through fifth-grade students. In December 2016, the governing board unanimously approved its rebuild as the No. 1 priority because of its aging and crowded campus, at an estimated cost of $18 million.

Tom O’Neil, education leader at Orcutt Winslow, presented improvement outlines at Cheyenne.

Cheyenne Traditional, 13636 N. 100th St., is a pre-kindergarten through eighth-grade school. In January the governing board unanimously approved renovations to begin at Cheyenne to include classroom space, gymnasium, front office and parking lot renovations at an estimated cost of $7.6 million.

Hopi Hawks

Hopi Elementary School, built in 1960, is considered challenging because of its small and crowded campus, district officials say.

Mr. Robichaux’s plans illustrate an 18-month project that would essentially flip its current layout, and include a one-story school building, separate administration building, four playgrounds and three basketball courts. Plans depict athletic fields on the west side of the property, with school buildings on the east.

Brian Robichaux (submitted photo)

When surveying the site, Mr. Robichaux says he found a couple of surprising facts.

“This was actually two old parcels of land, and I need to combine the parcels,” he explained. “In the survey, along the back of the property there’s a fence that divides the school playground area. We thought it was an easement, but it isn’t. The school district owns that property, so there’s about 10,000 square feet of land there.”

Mr. Robichaux says he utilized that extra square footage to provide additional play area and to give additional room between building improvements and parking area.

The site needs all new power, electrical and gas infrastructure, he said. He has also re-created the parking and traffic flow on campus, he said.

The site will include 32 classrooms, broken into eight pods of four rooms that includes indoor collaboration areas.

“We’re trying to get double duty out of everything we possibly can,” Mr. Robichaux explained. “Anything that’s in the interior of the building will have clear-story windows so that it gets daylight.”

The gymnasium is planned to be much larger — from about 2,000 square feet to 9,000 square feet — with a retractable room divider, in order to better serve students during lunch hours.

“Instead of feeding four or five periods, she can do it in two, and then just turn the gym over for P.E.,” he said. Additional site amenities include an administration conference room, a large band room, a general music room and a teacher dining room.

First exterior designs show three options that range from Spanish-colonial style, red brick front, to adobe. Mr. Robichaux believes the three options would match the surrounding neighborhoods.

“I’ve driven through the neighborhood — I can’t tell you how many times over the years — looking at those beautiful houses, and the style there is evolving into something really unique for Arizona,” he explained.

The school is being built to house 800 students total, Superintendent Dr. Denise Birdwell said. In the fall, the district is expected to look at methods to begin capping student capacity at Hopi Elementary.

“On this school we have to come up with a capping process,” she explained. “Right now they house 850 kids, so we have to actually come up with a plan how to decrease enrollment. The goal we’re looking at is a cap at 800, but it’s going to take us a little while to get there.”

A view of Cheyenne Traditional School.

Cheyenne Roadrunners

Cheyenne Traditional School necessities include science and computer labs, and front office and parking lot improvements to create a better flow of traffic and increased safety.

The northern school, which is one of two traditional schools in the district, brings students from all over the district.

Tom O’Neil (submitted photo)

“In a traditional school you don’t have buses, you have a lot of drop-offs,” Mr. O’Neil explained of the traffic flow. “You run five buses right now, you have a lot of cars out on the street.”

Mr. O’Neil says he has created a queuing system on site so cars aren’t lining up along the street.

“We’ve added a third lane to the conventional drop-off in front of the school,” he said. “The inside lane will peel off and go into the parking lot, getting them out of the queuing. The two lanes will stage up, it will get them off the street.”

The gymnasium, an area in which school staff gave a lot of feedback Mr. O’Neil says, has been expanded slightly to 12,000 square feet. The school also asked for 300-seat retractable bleachers, and is to include skylights.

Two much needed areas — science and computer labs — have been addressed, with what Mr. O’Neil calls taking science to a new level.

“We’re looking towards technology in our labs; there’s not as much gas and water and all that good stuff, it’s more virtual,” he explained. “So we took into consideration these labs of being very flexible.”

The room has been designed to use wheeled-furniture so that students can sit in the middle of the lab, in a classroom setting, or can move all the furniture out to the perimeters of the room.

“What they have out there right now is one modular as one lab, so I think this is a huge improvement,” he said. “I think staff got really excited that this could serve not only the upper grade levels, but it could serve the whole campus.”

It is also aiming to provide collaboration amongst students and teachers, and implementing technology that would serve teachers to record themselves, share their work and more, Mr. O’Neil said.

Northeast Valley News Services Editor Melissa Rosequist can be e-mailed at mrosequist@newszap.com or can be followed on Twitter at twitter.com/mrosequist_.

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