Aesthetics aside, MUSD moving forward on 2nd high school

Property where MUSD is currently considering building a second high school.


The first phase of high school No. 2 will be functional if not necessarily beautiful.

The planner and architect for the Maricopa Unified School District project updated the governing board on the basics of the school being planned on the east side of town.

Mark Rafferty of Facility Management Group said the project is in the “due-diligence phase.” That means completing a title search, title modification and “scrubbing” some of the easements and covenants.

Phase 1 includes just two buildings – a two-story academic building, and a food service and physical education building – along with a parking lot.

Architect Saravanan Bala of Orcutt Winslow said designers met with several “user groups” about the Phase 1 designs. Those included front office staff, core academic staff, media, athletics and food service.

“The staff have been very cooperative and given us excellent feedback on how we can think through the evolution of the project even at a minor level,” Bala said.

While a potential second phase could include sports facilities, Superintendent Tracey Lopeman said the School Facilities Board does not require athletic fields. That leaves the finding of sports funding on the shoulders of the administration.

“And we owe it to our kids,” she said.

Phase 1 of the new high school concept.

When Governing Board Vice President Ben Owens asked if the building exteriors could be “possibly a little bit more appealing” in the future with additional steelwork and textures, Bala said it’s a possibility.

“Hopefully, when the funding situation improves, there’s opportunities for us to come back and maybe do some strategic improvements to the overall aesthetics,” he said.

That goes for the interior, too, where designers would like to replace walls with glass panes.

Bala said the design inside and out is subject to the limits of SFB funding.

As currently designed, the academic building would have learning communities of classrooms around a lab and maker space. (Orcutt | Winslow)

The academic building, as currently designed would have two “academies or learning communities” on each floor. Each academy would have classrooms, a lab and a maker space.

“We are trying to maximize instructional space,” Bala said.

Planners are also looking at site improvements requested by the City of Maricopa, modifications that were passed along to the School Facilities Board “to see if Adjacent Ways funds are appropriate.”

Lopeman said enrollment so far this year in the district is around 7,300, “a couple hundred short of where we hoped to be.” However, she said, city growth is continuing and she has been following the number of closures on home sales.

SFB concluded two years ago Maricopa High School was overcapacity by about 600, necessitating a second high school. It provided over $22 million toward the construction of a starter high school.

Wednesday, the board approved a resolution to contribute $5 million in local money to the project, earmarking it for masonry walls, food service space and the height of the PE space.

Board member Patti Coutre said there was a timeline element for using the SFB funding.

The property the district is seeking for its second high school is on the southwest corner of Murphy and Farrell roads. Currently owned by Maricopa 240 LLC, the site is south of Anderson Palmisano Farms. The property directly west and south is also owned by Maricopa 240 LLC.

Board member Torri Anderson, who recused herself earlier this year from discussions and decisions on property purchases due to conflict of interest, encouraged anyone opposed to the selected property to contact the district office as soon as possible.

Rafferty said the land purchase is on track for final approval in October.