By Richard Smith
Already the largest Legacy Traditional School by enrollment, the Valley-wide charter school district’s Surprise campus will soon have 600 more students.
LTS-Surprise, at 14506 W Sweetwater Ave., has expanded with a $6.75 million separate junior high building for grades six through eight. When classes begin Aug. 3, the third-year K-8 school will grow from 1,350 students to a whopping 1,950.
“I believe we’re one of the largest K-8 schools in the state,” LTS-Surprise Principal Nicole Kirkley said.
Surprise became the first branch of Legacy to add a building largely because of the response leading up to opening day in 2015. The school debuted at capacity with about 1,000 more students on a waiting list.
Ms. Kirkley said internal expansion conversations started before classes did. When the large majority of parents kept their kids on the waiting lists after three separate follow ups, Legacy decided to expand.
“Since the opening of the Legacy Surprise campus, we have been asked repeatedly by parents in the area to consider expanding — and we did,” stated Legacy Traditional spokesman Matthew Benson in an email. “Our study has been ongoing as we assessed many factors. From census data projections on population growth to collecting feedback from parents on what they want in a school, we have been diligent in our expansion planning.”
The school added 45 total staff members, including 26 teachers for core academic disciplines. Each discipline will now have two teachers instead of one.
In grades 6-8 this will allow for specific yearbook, computer, Spanish, arts, band, piano, choir and musical theater offerings.
The result is a second building for junior high that mimics the traditional LTS classical architecture, but one floor instead of two.
“The overall design challenge was to match the general design and theme of the existing building, but also creating a distinct look and identity for the new junior high building. The new building has matched and complementary colors/materials, but we changed massing and roof lines to give a distinct look,” Mr. Benson stated.
The new building also includes a turf field for physical education and after school junior high sports. It features a piano lab, computer lab, two science lab rooms, several special education and speech rooms, natural lighting and additional offices for staff.
The project scope included expanding the existing cafeteria by 30 percent along with a substantial upgrade to the kitchen and serving lines.
“There will be more of a junior high feel. It allows them the additional electives. But it keeps them in a smaller area where we can keep the similar cultural feel,” Ms. Kirkley said.
The new campus will have a 2,000-student capacity. For now, the 50 openings are in eighth grade and unlikely to fill up this year.
But Ms. Kirkley said, the current seventh-grade class is full, so the campus should be at capacity by 2018-19.
In spite of the demand, LTS-Surprise had to meet district academic benchmarks to expand. Ms. Kirkley said
AZMerit scores at the school increased 19 percent in the campus’ second year, compared to its first, which cleared the most important hurdle to grow.
“There’s nothing worse than having parents come in and say this is exactly what I want for my child and there is nothing I can do for them.” Ms. Kirkley said.