Second High School Digging
An excavator claws the earth at the site of the second high school at North Murphy and West Farrell roads. Photo by Brian Petersheim Jr.

It’s not easy to see, but progress is already being made on Maricopa’s second high school.

“We really just got started,” said Mark Rafferty, a partner in Facility Management Group, who gave the construction update to the Maricopa Unified School District Governing Board on Wednesday evening. “The first thing that happened was this tremendous transformation of about 50 acres of the property. By taking those pecan trees out, it just completely opened up the perspective out there.”

According to Rafferty, progress on the school’s infrastructure includes locating the corners of the buildings to outline areas to be excavated so the soil can be compacted prior to digging the foundation.

But Rafferty said he thinks the most important part of the project already has been completed.

“The most important things, in my opinion, have already been done,” Rafferty said. “The planning, budgeting, the architects working closely with the district personnel to be sure the classrooms represent the forward thinking of the administration and the academics of the school district – those are the key things. But that’s done. This part now is the easy part – this is just trucks, and labor, and materials and turning pages and following instructions.”

Rafferty said the site at the southwest corner of North Murphy and West Farrell roads is “an awesome piece of land.” A former pecan farm, nearly all the trees were removed from the site and recycled, and the construction team is now removing about three feet of soil from the site and doing soil organic testing to ensure it is free enough of organics to be able to be compacted for a structure. Then the soil will be replaced in six-to-eight-inch layers called lifts, which are compacted to get the site stable enough to support a structure the size of a high school.

The process, known as overexcavation, is crucial, according to Rafferty. “If a slab cracks, it’s somebody’s fault,” he said.

After soil compaction the foundation will be dug and poured prior to building stem walls. Then the underground plumbing and electrical will be placed, followed by pouring of the reinforced concrete slab.

“That’s a milestone – a big milestone – when the slab gets poured, because now you’re moving vertical,” Rafferty said. “We’ll be finishing the “G” building (gym, cafeteria and kitchen) slab in late October, and I’m going to say probably it will be mid- to late-September when we’ll finish the “C” building (classrooms).

Board member Robert Downey said he is excited about the possibilities the new school will bring to the city.

“Two angles come straight to mind,” he said. “The first is that Maricopa is growing and that the school district is going to get a lot of growth and new students. The second is that it’s going to provide a lot of opportunities for kids and families in this city.”

Mark Rafferty FMG at 6-23-21 MUSD meeting
Mark Rafferty, a partner at Facilities Management Group, presents an update on construction on the city’s second high school to the MUSD Governing Board on Wednesday night. Photo by Jay Taylor

Board member Torri Anderson said the possibilities are endless.

“That east side of town is just blowing up in terms of home growth and it’s not going to stop,” she said. “It’s exciting that … the kids can go to school in the part of the community where they live.”

Asked if she has mixed emotions about the school being constructed in an area where her family has farmed for decades, she said she really doesn’t.

“It’s been coming for a long time,” she said. “Growing up here, you learn that with the growth comes growing pains. It’s going to happen. You can’t stop the train so you might as well jump on board and try to direct it, right? You can’t sit around and complain because that doesn’t do any good.

“I miss the trees, obviously, but we’re growing a new crop of kids. That’s how I look at it.”