Six schools remain on the Scottsdale school district’s list to rebuild, but some parents are concerned that the newest of the schools — and the one with the fewest calls for repairs — is being rebuilt next.
Cherokee Elementary had 34 work orders filed in the first couple of months of the school year, from Aug. 7 through Oct. 16.
Other schools still on the rebuild list had double or triple the number of work orders in that time, with problems ranging from bathroom leaks to rats in the kitchen and classrooms.
"It’s upsetting to me that the district is overlooking this," said Zach Lindsay, a parent at Kiva Elementary. "If your favorite restaurant had a rodent problem, would you want to go back there?"
His deeper concern is that the school will continue to lose students, which could affect when it gets rebuilt as district leaders consider enrollment among the factors.
The district responded to most of the work orders at Kiva, although a Scottsdale Unified School District spokeswoman says leaders are always weighing what to repair now and what to push to the rebuild.
"There is a responsibility for us to be spending the public money with care and concern," district spokeswoman Amy Bolton said. "Should we spend the money if we know a school is on the rebuild list?"
The number of work orders placed in the first two months of the school year for each of the rebuild schools and some of the more common causes for the work orders included:
Hohokam Elementary: 121 work orders: 36 related to HVAC (half involved routine annual maintenance); nine related to plumbing and leaks; and 10 related to pests, including roaches, ants, termites and a flying bug infestation.Tavan Elementary: 107 work orders: 20 related to HVAC, 16 related to pests including ants, spiders, termites, ants, scorpions, bees and crickets; and 13 related to leaks.Pueblo Elementary: 86 work orders: 23 related to HVAC work, five related to leaks and two related to ants. Kiva Elementary: 78 work orders: 12 related to leaks; 11 related to HVAC; and seven related to pests including ants, rats and spiders.Cherokee Elementary: 34 work orders: eight related to the air conditioning; three related to locks; and two related to pests including ants and wasps.
Navajo Elementary did not have updated work orders, as a fire in August forced the students and teachers to move to the nearby Oak Street Campus.
Scottsdale Fire Department
Issues not addressed
The number of work orders still open or pending at each of the schools was:
Hohokam: Eight orders.Tavan: Eight orders.Pueblo: 17 work orders.Kiva: 22 work orders.Cherokee: 0 work orders.
In particular, Kiva had a reoccurring problem with rats in the kitchen and classrooms.
Roof rats are a common problem in Paradise Valley. However, no items related to rats, roaches or termites were found at Cherokee, which is also in Paradise Valley.
Kiva is the oldest school in the district, built in 1955.
Cherokee, built in 1974 and renovated in 2001, is the newest school on the rebuild list.
Patty Beckman, a newly elected board member, said she hopes to ensure that work orders are completed in a timely manner, regardless of when a school will be rebuilt.
Cherokee Elementary School in Paradise Valley. (Photo: Cherokee Elementary School.)
Deciding what schools to rebuild
District voters approved a $229 million bond measure in 2016, largely to update aging schools.
The election pamphlet slated eight schools for rebuilds: Hopi, Pima, Cherokee, Hohokam, Kiva, Navajo, Pueblo and the 68th Street Complex (the former Tonalea Elementary School).
The district has largely completed work at Pima and Hopi elementary schools, although concerns surfaced — partly sparked by dissatisfaction with the Hopi rebuild — and eventually flared into full-blown scandals that led to resignations from the superintendent and other top administrators last spring. The problems included how the district hired contractors for construction work and in other areas.
This fall, the school board took another look at where to begin again.
Kiva Elementary School in Paradise Valley. Feb. 4, 2015. (Photo: 12 News)
Why rebuild Cherokee Elementary?
The board ranked the schools in seven areas:
Age of the building.Enrollment.Operational health.Life cycle cost.Enrollment trends.Urgency.Scope of work.
Hohokam’s operational health was considered the worst, which alludes to infrastructure from plumbing to heating ventilation and air conditioning reflected in the high number of work orders. The board ranked the other schools similarly in that area.
The enrollment at Cherokee, the district’s largest K-5 school, pushed it to the top of the list.
The rebuild ranking, with aggregated scores from board members, shows:
Cherokee: 184 points.Hohokam: 169 points.Kiva: 160 points.Pueblo: 148 points.Navajo: 134 points.Tavan: 131 points.
The board could have pursued two rebuilds, but settled on one as the district also will be repairing Navajo after the fire.
"I don’t think we have the bandwidth in the district to manage two complete rebuilds and do a halfway remodel of Navajo," board member Pam Kirby said then.
Enrollment at Scottsdale schools
Parents like Lindsay fear that as enrollment becomes a key factor in the rebuilds that schools like Kiva will continue to lose students. Beyond the rebuilds, the board has been taking a closer look at school enrollments amid dwindling enrollment districtwide.
"Parents love Kiva, they love the teachers, they love the community, it’s a highly performing school, and they’re able to do this in a less than ideal learning environment," Lindsay said. "It’s just discouraging to be told by the district that they’re not going to do any work at the school and see it get passed over."
Kiva Principal Alice Spingola says she’s not worried about enrollment.
"Hopefully my job is to ease those concerns and say look, we are growing new programs in our school," Spingola said. "We’re on our way up and on our way to being bigger and better than ever before."
Kiva, an A-rated school, became home to one of the district’s only Comprehensive Gifted programs this year, where fifth-grade students receive enhanced literacy and math instruction on top of their regular classes.
"The fact that they chose Kiva for this program says a lot about the school and the environment that students are operating in," Bolton said.
Hohokam Elementary School (Photo: Photo: The Republic)
Cherokee Elementary rebuild meeting this week
Architects from Phoenix-based Orcutt Winslow will meet with stakeholders at 6:30 p.m. Monday at Cherokee Elementary.
The team met with 50 of the school’s parents, staff and neighbors last month to begin a collaborative design process. The design process for Hopi, by comparison, was contentious, leading many parents to protest the final design of the school.
Orcutt Winslow has scheduled five more meetings with the Cherokee community before proceeding with a design. Construction is expected to begin in late 2019.