Chandler Unified’s

The green area bordered in gray is the site of Chandler Unified’s new high school in Gilbert, which is currently under construction.

Chandler Unified officials have decided to relocate Arizona College Prep-Erie’s 800 students to a new high school under construction near Gilbert and Ocotillo roads in Gilbert.

The Governing Board voted unanimously on Oct. 14 to move Erie’s campus to a bigger facility designed to accommodate up to 2,000 students. 

The board additionally approved adjusting some of enrollment boundaries for other high schools in order to balance out enrollment numbers at all six campuses. 

Students currently attending the district’s other high schools – not including Erie – won’t be impacted by the boundary changes because the adjustments will only start to apply with the class of 2025. 

The new high school, which is set to open in July, has been under construction for the last year and is intended to help relieve some of the overcrowding seen at the district’s other schools. 

The board was presented with a number of options for how it might redraw the district’s boundary lines to account for the new campus and ultimately picked a plan that moves Erie students from their current campus near Dobson Road and Chandler Boulevard. 

Assistant Superintendent Craig Gilbert said this option was recommended by the district’s administrators because it allows for more students to experience Erie’s model of instruction.

“This has been a very successful school and I think bringing this success to many students in our district is a viable option,” Gilbert said. 

The U.S. Department of Education named Erie a Blue Ribbon school last year for its excellent academic performance and many of the school’s students have attracted publicity over the years for innovative projects. 

Unlike the district’s bigger high schools, Erie only accepts students through an open enrollment process that involves filling out an application. 

The new high school, which will adopt the “ACP-Erie” name, is expected to continue the open enrollment process and draw some additional students who had previously been assigned to Perry High School. 

Eighth graders living within the perimeter of Ocotillo, Cooper, Lindsay and Chandler Heights roads will be joining Erie’s existing students as the first crop of pupils to attend the new school for the 2021-2022 school year. 

Before the board made its boundary changes, some families voiced concerns over how Erie’s students would mix with students who are assigned to attend the new school. 

Erie has a reputation for its heavy student workload and some parents worried their children couldn’t keep up with the school’s expectations. 

Gilbert said Erie’s homework requirements are comparable to the district’s other high schools and the school’s course catalog is not much different from the others. 

The new Erie campus will offer many of the same programs and amenities that can be experienced at any typical high school, he added. 

“It is going to be a comprehensive high school,” Gilbert said. “And all the things that we offer at all our schools is what our plan is to offer at this school as well.”

Another concern parents expressed involved the close-knit, communal culture Erie has become known for throughout the district. 

Some parents worried this culture could be lost by moving over to a bigger campus and others felt their child might not feel accepted in this type of learning environment.  

Myron Blueford, an Erie teacher, pointed out how Erie is still a relatively young high school and is still developing a campus culture. 

So parents shouldn’t fret about their children not fitting in, he said, because they can be part of Erie’s journey of growth and expansion.  

“This is not necessarily an established culture that we’re going to be projecting onto them,” Blueford said. 

Although Erie plans to keep its name and mascot, the school’s administrators will eventually have to decide whether the school should continue mandating students to follow a specific dress code at its new campus.  

Principal Rob Bickes said he’ll be holding community meetings over the next few months to figure out whether Erie should continue requiring students to wear uniforms. 

Bickes said he has already sketched out a schedule over the next few months for how he’ll begin the process of acclimating Erie’s existing and new students to the new facility. 

Erie’s staff is excited to move over to a campus that will be able to accommodate more programming, Bickes added, and they’re eager to welcome a new cohort of students into the Erie family. 

“I’m very excited for a new chapter,” the principal said. 

In addition to offering Erie a bigger campus to grow, CUSD leaders commended their boundary plan for its potential economic benefits on the district’s budget. 

Board President Barbara Mozdzen is grateful CUSD may be able to avoid having to spend up to $7 million on renovations at Erie’s current campus by moving the school over to a newer facility. 

Erie started out as a high school with a graduating class of only 10 students, Mozdzen noted, and has proven its need for a better campus to fit all the students wishing to enroll. 

According to district records, Erie’s current campus was intended to only accommodate 765 students and the school ended the last school year with 817 students. 

“I’m very much in favor of being able to give them a place to continue to grow,” Mozdzen said. 

The board’s reshuffling plan also involves redrawing some of the boundary lines for Hamilton High School, the district’s largest campus which ended the last school year with more than 4,000 students.

CUSD will  move Hamilton’s perimeter of Chandler Boulevard, Alma School, Pecos and McQueen roads to Chandler High’s boundary. This move would be the least troublesome considering the perimeter is geographically adjacent to Chandler High’s campus, officials said.

Chandler High has new facilities to accommodate an extra horde of students, district officials added, that could help Hamilton’s campus from becoming too crowded.   

The district’s boundary plan further involves moving a section in the area of  Val Vista Drive, Ocotillo, Lindsay and Chandler Heights roads out of Perry High’s boundary to Basha High. 

CUSD said reshuffling the boundaries in this way will hopefully keep enrollment levels at each high school campus between 1,500 and 2,000 students. At the end of the last school year, none of the district’s schools had fewer than 2,000 high school students. 

If Erie’s students had remained at their current campus, then CUSD would have had to move more of Perry’s boundaries over to the new school and carve up more of Hamilton’s enrollment zone. 

Administrators claim the district’s reshuffling plan best ensures the least amount of disruption for students and maximizes the district’s existing resources.