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Heritage Academy

The guys became the cheerleaders as four teams of Heritage Academy girls played powderpuff football at Pacana Park to benefit breast cancer awareness and local food banks Thursday. For the price of $300 raised to fight cancer, organizers promised to put Assistant Principal Barry Halterman in a pink tutu for the games, and followed through.

Logan Harper introduces himself to parents and students as the new band teacher at Desert Wind Middle School. Photo by Raquel Hendrickson

Most schools in Maricopa start the New Year this week and prepared for opening day with Meet the Teacher nights. Maricopa Unified School District hosted a welcome-back gathering for certified and classified employees. Classes will be under way Monday. Watch for buses on the streets and children on foot near school zones.

Construction is continuing rapidly on the academic building at Heritage Academy. Photo by Raquel Hendrickson

With construction of its campus behind schedule, the new Heritage Academy will start the school year with classes off-site, according to information released to parents by Principal Kimberly Ellsworth.

The plan is to have classes at Elements Event Center, a conference facility at UltraStar Multi-tainment Center. School starts July 24.

The charter school is a middle school and high school campus. Elements, a property of Ak-Chin Indian Community, has made space available for up to eight weeks if necessary.

Elements has four main rooms with a total capacity of about 395 people. The largest room can be divided into smaller spaces.

“After speaking with Elements at UltraStar, we are confident in the facilities, set up, staff support and safety of this temporary location,” Ellsworth wrote. “We are excited to work with them, and we think the scholars will enjoy the learning experience at this facility.”

Classes will be moved to the new campus as soon as it has a certificate of occupancy.

Heritage will host a Meet the Teacher Night July 18 from 6 to 8 p.m. at Elements, 16000 N. Maricopa Road.

The school broke ground in March. The campus is being constructed at 41001 W. Lucera Lane off Adams Way at Porter Road, not far from Saddleback Elementary and Leading Edge Academy – Maricopa to the west, Legacy Traditional School to the south and Sequoia Pathway Academy to the north.

Heritage Academy construction on June 27
Heritage Academy construction on June 11. Photo by Kyle Norby

Crew work in the early morning at the Heritage Academy sight.

Heritage Academy is scheduled to open its Maricopa campus July 24, but the charter school is still under construction.

The school, prepared for sixth through 11th grade (intending to add 12th grade next year), is awaiting five permits. Ten permits have been issued for the project, and there are 35 inspections yet to be conducted.

The property at 41001 W. Lucera Lane is on land owned by Our Lady of Grace parish in Glennwilde.

The 13,525-square-foot gym and a 29,359-square-foot academic building have been issued permits for commercial new building, sprinkler system and fire alarm. A 16,101-square-foot addition to the academic building has not.

Each of the first two commercial permits took two and a half months to be issued. The commercial permit for the addition was submitted April 17.

The campus plans also eventually include a 16,454-square-foot auditorium and a football field.  Low Mountain Construction has the campus marked for completion in October.

Representatives from Heritage Academy did not respond to queries about contingency plans. A weekly newsletter stated, “We will have a better timeline of completion once the steel is finished.  In the meantime, we are making some back-up plans, just in case, so we can ensure school will begin on time.”

The school has been busy hiring faculty and orienting scholars. Students have been auditioning for fine arts programs as well.

Another planned charter high school and middle school, A+ Charter Schools, opted to postpone its construction until next school year.

Low Mountain Construction is putting up the campus buildings.

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A teary-eyed mom popped into our youth theater office, as we looked at each other wondering what she was going to complain about. “Oh dear, here we go” we thought collectively.

“I just want to tell you that you have created a miracle,” she began.  “My boy is in 6th grade and he has never quite fit in—sort of a nerd you know—then you cast him as the lead in Oliver.  By the way, what were you thinking?  He has never acted before!”

“How did that go for him?” we asked carefully, still wondering where this was heading.

“He loves it!  He has become the celebrity of his school.  All the kids treat him as if he is famous, even asking for his autograph!  He is a completely different boy, and so happy with life!  I cannot express my thanks to you and your director! We prayed for a miracle for him, and you delivered!”**

A year after this, he was cast again as the lead in Broadway Palms’ version of Oliver.  The boy could act!

This is simply a typical example of what youth theater and performing arts can do for kids. Research has shown that children’s brains grow better cognitively, emotionally, socially, collaboratively and neurologically when they are involved in performing arts!  They also show increased retention, confidence and independent thinking. (see www.jensenlearning.com/news/why arts should be in every school)

Life is all about growing and expanding who we are as humans.  Who would not want to encourage the creative thinking and problem-solving side of ourselves? Now is the time to get your children involved in maximizing their potential.  Offer them performing arts opportunities early!

**The Director was Marcus Ellsworth, new Drama Teacher at Heritage Maricopa, who served as Executive Artistic Director and founder of Actors Youth Theater in the East Valley, producing 5+ shows a year since 2001, being awarded countless Zoni Awards for outstanding Youth Theater in Arizona.  He also currently directs for Chandler-Gilbert Community College.

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Would you like your child to love math, science and literature, to have an excellent memory, concentration, discipline, critical thinking and creative problem-solving abilities?  Would you also like him or her to enjoy socializing and have high self-esteem?

Of course, we would all like this!

Neuroscientists have been studying brains intensely since 2000, making incredible discoveries. One of the most amazing is that listening to and performing music stimulates brain growth in children, resulting in all these traits!

In fact, the highest academic math and science scores in the world come from Japan, Hungary and the Netherlands, where studying a musical instrument is mandatory for children.  According to research scientists, EEG readings on children involved in music show chemical change, improved brain activity, hormone production, and accelerated growth to all parts of the brain.  Neuroscience has begun recommending one-hour-a-day of music for all children, even babies!

Besides these “scientific” facts, it is good to know that music has been binding humanity for thousands of years.  It has been the basis of communication from mother to baby, the pattern by which we learn and remember words, songs, rhymes, genealogies.  Music has always been a way to soothe our moods, energize us, stimulate our emotions.  Catchy tunes and smooth sounds have helped cultures “speak” to one another.

Give your child his best chance to learn and grow. A chance to “speak” to others.  Make sure he or she experiences music!


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Heritage students with snakes. (Submitted photo)

“Heritage Academy staff and teachers really have the scholars’ best interest at heart,” said one Heritage Parent. “They are willing to go the extra mile to ensure that all of their students are set up for success and have every available tool to do and be the best they can.”

The original downtown Mesa campus has been open for over 20 years and is an A-rated school with the Arizona Department of Education. Heritage Academy in Maricopa is a replication school from the original Mesa Campus and is a tuition-free, 6th-12th grade charter school. It has already enrolled over 300 new Maricopa scholars. They are excited to add more scholars and families who are interested in high academic standards.

Another Heritage parent was “drawn to the small-school environment which allows the teachers to really get to know their students and help them succeed.” By offering small class sizes, Heritage teachers have more time in class to teach and help scholars learn.

Located in The Crossings in The Heart of Maricopa–East of Porter, off Adams–the campus is ideally situated for families in the City of Maricopa. While excited about the new facilities, the focus of Heritage Academy has always been to give their scholars a quality education and experience. In addition to the strong academics, Heritage offers a wide array of arts and athletics in an innovative 4-day block schedule.

Principal Kim Ellsworth explained how Heritage uses a block schedule. “Scholars attend four classes on Mondays and Wednesdays and four classes on Tuesdays and Thursdays. This gives teachers and scholars more class time and gives the scholar the opportunity to add electives to explore more options without overloading their schedule.”

She continued, “The scholars really enjoy the four-day school week and parents like it because scholars have time to finish homework and still have weekend family time. We have had many parents tell us they like the flexibility of being able to schedule appointments on Friday without their scholars having to miss any school.”

For the arts, Heritage Academy will be offering classes in dance, art, drama, choir and instrumental music. In athletics, programs include football, volleyball, basketball, soccer, and martial arts. Depending on scholar interest, other sports may be added such as swimming, softball, baseball, and cross country.

Heritage Academy maintains a clean, moral, positive atmosphere where scholars can feel safe. The staff and faculty are committed to the growth and development of young people. Providing the highest quality education and character development are key qualities for every member of the Heritage faculty. The faculty is expected to perform at a high level and focus on serving the parents and scholars.
Heritage Academy is currently taking enrollment applications online for grades 6-10 at https://hamaricopa.com/enrollment-open/. You may also reach us at maricopa@heritageacademyaz.com or by calling (520) 367-3800.

Kimberly Ellsworth will be Heritage Academy's first principal in Maricopa. Photo by Jim Headley

Friday Heritage Academy officially broke ground on its new $16 million school set to open in July.

The campus in Maricopa will be the fourth Heritage Academy to open in Arizona. The company has charter schools open in Laveen, Mesa and Queen Creek.

“Heritage Academy was the fourth charter issued in the state of Arizona in the very first year,” said Jared Taylor, chairman of the Heritage board and CEO. “We were one school for many years. We had so many people asking us to build in other places, and we always said no. We were happy just being one little school in downtown Mesa.”

He said when people started standing in line at 2 a.m. to enroll their children in the charter school, the Heritage board decided to rethink the idea of opening additional locations. Heritage opened locationa in Queen Creek and Laveen five years ago.

“We are not a charter affiliate that needs to build on every corner. We want to go where there is a good fit in the community, where there is a need in the community,” he said.

Taylor said he was approached by some Maricopa parents, especially Sarah Morgan, telling him there was a need in the city as many charter schools had a long waiting list to enroll.

“They said, ‘Will you?’ and I said, ‘No.’ I don’t have any more hair to lose and I can’t go anymore gray,” Taylor joked.  “It was actually a great fit and we are excited to be here.”

Taylor said the $16 million investment in the Maricopa school will come in two phases, with $13.3 million for the opening phase in the first year followed by a $3.3 million phase a couple years after enrollment grows. A school auditorium is planned in the second phase. He said the school is expected to be completed and operational by July.

“We love the families and we’ve been doing this from the very first year of charter schools. We know what we’re doing. We don’t have to be all things to all people. We just specialize with junior high and high school. Here, we are opening grades 6 through 10 the first year. The next year we will open grade 11 and then 12,” Taylor said.

Kimberly Ellsworth will be moving to Maricopa to be the Maricopa school’s first principal. She started at Heritage Academy as a junior high English teacher in 1999. She later worked as a teacher and assistant principal with other schools in the valley and returned to Heritage Academy in 2014 as the founding principal for the Laveen campus.

“We did start the Laveen campus five years ago,” Ellsworth said. “It is quite a process. They have already replaced me in Laveen, and I started working for Maricopa as the principal in January. It is a huge project. We’re starting something new – to me that is the exciting part. We can build exactly what we want. We can train the kids from the very beginning.”

Ellsworth said the first day of school on the Maricopa campus is July 24.

“I think we can do it, maybe a month sooner,” she said. “We are still looking for students. I feel like this school is the best you will ever find.”

Maricopa Mayor Christian Price welcomed Heritage to the city.

“This school is a great addition to the community,” Price said. “Anytime we can add quality institutions of learning to our community and give people a choice, I think it’s an excellent thing. It helps us raise the bar for our attraction of businesses, headquarters and retailers that want to come to our community. We are generating the qualified workforce that needs to be here. For a wonderful A+ school to come to the community – that’s only a valuable addition.”

To find out more about Heritage Academy visit their webpage at heritageacademyaz.com.

“We still have 10 teaching positions to fill. We will probably start with 25 new jobs in the community. Many of them are local. With some of them, they live in Maricopa but working outside of Maricopa. It is fun to bring them back. If people are interested in the jobs here, go to our website to see what openings we have,” Taylor said, adding families interested in enrolling their children in the academy are welcome to tour one of their existing schools.

The Maricopa school’s website will be HAMaricopa.com.