Schild: empty promises leave Scottsdale Tonalea community in disarray

After the current building bond passed, members of the Tonalea community asked then Scottsdale School District Superintendent Denise Birdwell to demolish the old school buildings on the campus located at 68th and Oak streets.

Christine Schild

Once the school was shuttered in 2014, the buildings turned into a hobo haven and a rat roadway. It had become a blight on the community and everyone, including the district, acknowledged that fact.

Conversations were held to preserve a mural that had significance to the community and the district agreed to tear down all but the administration building.

In its place, the community was promised soccer fields, restrooms, and storage. It was anticipated that youth sports organizations would help defray the cost of maintaining the sod that would remain in place until the district decided a new school was needed on the property.

Instead, the community has endured a bare lot for eight months with no end in sight. During the monsoon season, dirt is kicked up and spread throughout the neighborhood.

Tonalea is also an EPA clean-up site as a result of activities conducted at the old Motorola plant at McDowell and Scottsdale Roads. Who knows what the neighbors are inhaling? It cannot be good for their health.

I recently learned the district has no intention to abate the dust problem even though the community recently expressed its concerns to Superintendent John Kriekard. The district is relying on a technicality — the county does not require dust abatement on “vacant” lots. Since the district is not actively engaged in construction on the site, they are not “required” to abate the dust.

My father passed away last August after contracting Valley fever. The doctors were unsure how he was infected because he lived in an assisted living facility and did not spend a lot of time outdoors. The likely answer was that dust from an adjacent bare lot contained the spores that ultimately killed my dad.

This year, the number of confirmed cases of Valley fever is 56 percent higher than the same time last year. Six hundred people contract Valley fever every month.

I am saddened the district and superintendent appear to have little regard for the health, safety and welfare of the Tonalea community. When the old buildings were demolished, the parents hoped they would finally have something that would benefit their children even if it wasn’t a neighborhood school. Instead the district is ignoring their concerns and turning a blind eye to a significant health risk.

There is absolutely no reason why the district cannot turn that property into a multipurpose facility for the community to enjoy. Cover the dirt. Reopen the playground. Let the children play there.

The property at 68th and Oak Street is the heart of Tonalea. The superintendent and board should be willing to accommodate this community. They don’t want anything special. They aren’t asking the district to rebuild the school with views of the mountains from every classroom.

They just want sod.

Editor’s note: Ms. Schild is a Scottsdale resident and former member of the Scottsdale School District Governing Board

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