(Source: YourWestValley): Philip Haldiman – Hundreds of new homes in North Peoria AZ are hitting the market this summer or are about to be built, many poised to be inhabited by families with would be students of the Peoria Unified School District.
But at least two schools in the area are at capacity, one other is estimated to reach capacity by the 2018-19 school year and four others are projected to be at more than 92 percent capacity by the 2018-19 school year, according to numbers released in April by the PUSD Boundary Commitee.
Officials say funding is not potentially available for a new school to open until 2020.
Meanwhile, development marches on, charter schools multiply, and the district races against time.
At least three residential communities in North Peoria slated for about135 homes were put on the market this summer and at least four developments have pulled permits in recent months to build more than 100 homes.
Additionally, more than a dozen developments are planned for thousands of homes in North Peoria that have yet to be built.
Mayor Cathy Carlat said the city not in a position to prevent growth because the majority of vacant land in Peoria is owned by private landowners or the Arizona State Land Department. She said State Land is not public land and Peoria is not authorized to control what can occur on the land. Additionally, she said there are many laws that shield private property owners from being mandated to convert the land to a less intensive use or to leave it undeveloped.
Arizona cities are not authorized to govern or manage schools in any way, but the state directly through the school districts has the constitutionally delegated responsibility for the funding, facilities, and operations of schools,
Ms. Carlat said number one tool Peoria uses to direct current and future growth is through its general plan and zoning authority.
“When a developer comes to the city with a request to rezone their land, they are compelled to incorporate Peoria policies (in the general plan) relating to development including land use, density, standards of design, set-backs, amenities, and even safeguarding portions as open space,” she said. “Also, the zoning process requires neighborhood outreach, the submission of traffic studies, adherence to specific infrastructure obligations, and very importantly, proving a guarantee of 100 years of water for each home built.”
Heidi Vega, a spokeswoman for the Arizona School Board Association, said public school districts are at a disadvantage when it comes to new school construction. New school district facilities must be approved by the Arizona School Facilities Board by proving overcrowding and demonstrating a need through student enrollment data. Additionally, tax payers are double-paying for school buildings in some areas, Ms. Vega said.
A new two-story, 54,225 square-foot BASIS campus is finalizing construction on 8.5 acres for grades 5-12, near the northwest corner of Yearling Road and Lake Pleasant Parkway. The school, which did not require FSB approval, is set to open for classes Aug. 14.
“With growth, school districts have to work with the SFB, which usually takes about two years, to approve a new building, or go to their voters for bond approval. Assuming you get past that hurdle, there are charter schools that are expanding in growth areas that just build a school without any kind of coordination with a district or SFB,” Ms. Vega said. “If you’re a district that finally gets approval to start building a school because you’re overcrowded, you build a school, a big charter moves in and enrolls 700-900 kids, and takes a huge chunk of the students in the overcrowded area because it doesn’t have to go through the long approval process. Now you’ve got a school that’s under capacity and taxpayers have paid for two schools — the district one through bond or SFB money and the charter one through the state general fund.”