Land east of Maricopa Public Library has been set aside a new school for Camino Montessori.

An updated plan for Maricopa Grand Professional Village could move a charter school closer to realizing a new home.

The property at Maricopa Public Library is platted for office condominiums on nearly seven of the 9.85 acres. The remaining 3.06 acres is set aside for Camino Montessori Charter School.

The Maricopa City Council approved an amendment to the final plat Oct. 4. The approval was “a big piece that needed to happen,” said Judy Webster, owner of Camino Montessori.

Along with the library, other completed buildings in the “village” are occupied by CrossFit, AllState Insurance and the Pinal County Health Clinic. Ultimately, the plan calls for nine buildings on the total acreage of Tract A, with Tract B reserved for the school. That removes six buildings from the original 15-building plan.

A site plan for the development of the area was approved in 2006, but the economic recession halted progress on the site, which extends to the intersection of Porter Road and Smith-Enke Road. The property was re-platted in 2011 and foreclosed upon later that year.

Also in 2011, Pinal County acquired the building that is now the clinic.

Steve Durkee of Durkee & Company LLC bought the property in March this year with the continued intent for office condominiums “to be occupied by accounting firms, attorney’s office, insurance companies, financial planners, mortgage companies, doctors, dentists and other professionals, but predominantly medical uses.”

The plan is to sell the 3.06 acres to Camino Montessori.

The action taken by the city last week allows for the creation of the lot division to accommodate the school, but nothing is carved in stone from the Camino Montessori perspective.

Judy Webster
Judy Webster

“We have no final approval on anything,” Webster said. “We are pursuing bond financing.”

Last year the charter school had around 75 students in preschool through fourth grade. This year’s enrollment is 105-110. The State Board for Charter Schools approved Camino Montessori for sixth grade. A new school is planned for a capacity of up to 250 students.

“The reason the board and I decided to go forward on the bond option more focused on the project,” Webster said. “A conventional bank loan might be less expensive but might just be for the building or just for the property. The bond may be more expensive up front, but it’s a great way to put things in place.”

The two prongs of the bond are identifying the property and laying out the project. Webster has a bond attorney and development team of developer, contractor and architect on board.

Webster said a potential investor is visiting the site this week. The school’s goal is to have a bond approval at the end of October or beginning of November. Webster said that would allow for the current timeline of building a 16,000-square-foot school and be ready to move in over the summer in time for classes in August.

Camino Montessori is currently in the Stagestop Marketplace on Maricopa-Casa Grande Highway. Even if hopes are not realized to build at the Smith-Enke location, the plans are still to find a property for a new school.

But the Smith-Enke property is certainly first choice.

“We love the location,” Webster said.

She said most of the students’ families live in a 1-2 mile radius of the intersection. The proximity to the library next door and the county extension farm farther down Smith-Enke are also plusses.

The vision for Camino Montessori is to be “small but sustainable,” Webster said.

The lot on Smith-Enke Road would provide space for a community garden and composting program, which fit the Montessori model. “That is a big piece of our plan,” she said.

The Desert Greens suites comprise one of the buildings in the Maricopa Grand Professional Village.
The Desert Greens suites comprise one of the buildings in the Maricopa Grand Professional Village.

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