Scottsdale Independent

Hopi Elementary community gathers one last time before rebuild commences

An artist’s rendering of the new design for Hopi Elementary School. (photo by SUSD.org)

The Hopi Elementary School rebuild project is starting in just a couple of days, although to the dismay of some parents and community members.

Several members of the Hopi Elementary community gathered at a Sept. 27 meeting held in the school’s cafeteria, to see one last presentation and ask questions on the rebuild plans just days before construction fences are planned to go up. Hopi Elementary School is a part of the Scottsdale Unified School District at 5110 E. Lafayette Blvd. in Phoenix.

In November 2016, the SUSD voters approved a $229 million bond — a large portion of which was earmarked to rebuild eight old elementary schools. One month after the approval, in December, the Scottsdale Unified School District Governing Board named Hopi its top priority because of its aging and crowded campus. It has a budget of $21 million, according to Chief Operation Officer Louis Hartwell.

In May 2017 Brian Robichaux, president of Hunt and Caraway Architects, gave district officials a first blush look at the proposed design for the school.

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

Mr. Robichaux’s May plans illustrated 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.

The site needs all new power, electrical and gas infrastructure, the parking and traffic flow has been re-created, and the site includes 32 classrooms.

As the spring and summer stretched on, district officials and hired hands were attempting to find an agreeable facade — or elevation in construction lingo — for Hopi. A 12-person bond committee comprised of Hopi Elementary faculty, parents and community members were first presented with a couple of outside design options back in April and June. Neither option received popular support, district officials say.

Following community input that strongly asked for red brick on the front of the school building, two options were shown and agreed upon by the governing board at its Aug. 10 special meeting held at Coronado High School, 7601 E. Virginia Ave. The Governing Board voted 5-0 in August to collectively approve moving forward with construction after the Hopi Elementary community chooses one of the facades.

An artist’s rendering of the new Hopi Elementary School design. (photo by SUSD.org)

The Sept. 27 community meeting included a handful of SUSD officials and two representatives from Core Construction, but Superintendent Dr. Denise Birdwell was out-sick and representatives for architect firm Hunt and Caraway were not present — disappointing many parents, as several questions were on the topic of design.

“The purpose of tonight’s meeting is to inform you about the upcoming construction and to share those final designs with you of the building,” Principal Tamara Jagodzinski told the audience of about 50.

Ms. Jagodzinski says the questions she’s heard most in her office include playground changes and windows and daylight in the classrooms. A rebuild committee comprised of parents and teachers were selected through an application process, who have volunteered their time to represent the community through this process.

Parent and neighbor Chris Janson, a member of the rebuild committee, says he understands the feedback coming from the local residents.

“I would take you through the 14 pages of bullet points that we’ve dealt with over the last couple of months, but I think what I want you all to know is we see it, we hear it, we understand it,” Mr. Janson explained. “The building envelope was pretty well set. We asked a lot of the questions that I think you see the community asking today, about breeze ways, opportunities to remodel — so know that those questions were asked. But when it came down to it, it was pretty clear that for our kids to keep going to school here we had to work within the building envelope we were given.”

Mr. Janson listed off a variety of priorities for the school including: open outdoor spaces, separating playground spaces, lush landscapes, multi-functioning interior spaces, large gymnasium, parking congestion, safety and walking access.

“When we got into the classroom building, we have five educators who sit on the rebuild committee with us, and they had a lot of great input,” he said. “We were able to reconfigure the way some classrooms sat, as well as how we access those. At the same time, we heard a lot from our teachers about storage, they don’t have enough storage in their classrooms, so we configured some of those things.”

Mr. Janson says the architecture of the building was one of the top priorities for the rebuild committee and ultimately, they feel they’ve settled on a happy medium.

“All people on this committee were very focused on architecture and wanting to understand the architecture, and we weren’t happy with the architecture from the very beginning of what we thought — some of you may have been to some of the board meetings and heard that we thought it looked like a Taco Bell. It just didn’t pop,” explained.

“Over the last 30-45 days we feel like the architect has done a good job of working with Core and inside of their budget of what they’re given, to come up with something that we generally accept.”

Some of Hopi’s special qualities, such as original red brick from the 1960s, artwork and tiles, will be salvaged if possible, Ms. Jagodzinski said.

“All of the decorative tiles in the hallway that have been put up, I believe for the 50-year anniversary, we are working on a new plan specifically on where those will go in the new building,” the school principal explained. “All of the bricks that are out front under our current blue patio, along with the Heidi Hildebrand memorial, the ones that have people’s names on them on the ground, those will be saved.”

Ms. Jagodzinski also says there’s a unique phone booth window — which she believes is from the original “phone room” where teacher’s used to call home to parents — that is planned to go into the new school as well.

“It’s this wonderful little door, with this circle window, I desperately want to save that and figure out how to incorporate that because it’s just a part of Hopi,” she said.

Construction fences are expected to go up Saturday, Sept. 30. The original five construction phases have been condensed down to three, with an end date of January 2019. New buildings are expected to be open at the beginning of next school year, according to SUSD.org’s timeline. To view all planning materials and artist renderings, visit www.SUSD.org.