Schools overcame many challenges in 2021

Construction continues on Desert Sunrise High School which is slated to open for the 2022-23 school year. [Brian Petersheim Jr.]

Coming off the chaos of 2020, when the COVID-19 pandemic closed schools to in-person learning, forced students and staff to wear masks and observe a range of safety protocols, and limited attendance at the city’s nine public schools, 2021 stood out as a landmark year for students and educators in the city.

In January 2021, the Maricopa Unified School District Governing Board voted to extend its distance learning policy through Jan. 29 to allow the spate of cases that arose following the holiday season to subside. Students and teachers returned to the classroom Feb. 1 and the district has remained open since.

Lopeman at MHS 2 groundbreaking
Maricopa Unified School District Superintendent Dr. Tracy Lopeman addresses a crowd in 2021 about the progress on the new high school and the importance of passing the school system override, which was accomplished. [Jay Taylor]
May saw the district break ground on the city’s second high school at Murphy and Farrell roads, on the 80-acre site of a former pecan grove. July brought further good news for the district as, thanks in large part to the efforts of former state Rep. Bret Roberts, the high school was allocated an additional $18.8 million toward construction on top of the initial $22.5 million.

The additional funding will allow the district to build a more complete facility rather than the “bare bones” school initially planned. Additional facilities include a student services building and field house for athletics.

In November voters passed a continuation of the district’s 10% budget override which secured about $5 million per year in funding for teacher and staff salaries, technology and the RAM Academy.

The year was capped with the governing board choosing the name Desert Sunrise for the new high school.

This year in review was first published in the January edition of InMaricopa magazine.