Gold Canyon Elementary to be sold, Apache Junction school board decides

Officials at the Sept. 12 Apache Junction Unified School District Governing Board meeting included, from left, governing board members Mike Weaver, Cami Garcia and Christa Rizzi, President Jodi Ehrlich, Vice-President Dena Kimble and Dr. Krista Anderson, AJUSD superintendent. (Photo by Richard H. Dyer, Independent Newspapers)

Ten months after getting approval by voters to sell or lease four former schools closed because of declining enrollment, the Apache Junction Unified School District Governing Board has hired a real estate broker to market and find a buyer for Gold Canyon Elementary, 5810 S. Alameda Road.

Land Advisors was hired in a 5-0 vote Sept. 12 of the AJUSD Governing Board following a more than 30-minute closed-door executive session to consult with the district attorney. Voting yes were President Jodi Ehrlich, Vice-President Dena Kimble and members Mike Weaver, Cami Garcia and Christa Rizzi.

“These funds (would reduce) the amount of funds that are being expended out of our (maintenance and operations) budget currently for teacher salaries into our capital budget to support our capital needs and this is something that would help alleviate that and provide funds for potential salary increases on a long-term basis, which is really, for me, one of the driving factors,” President Ehrlich said before the vote.

“I agree. I think it’s a cash infusion that we need as a district,” Vice-President Kimble said.

“This is a decision that is people over bricks and mortar. Bricks and mortar are something that we could rebuild if we needed to,” Mr. Weaver said. “Quite honestly we’ve looked at this for over a year and the conclusion is that school will not in any of our lifetimes … need to be reopened. It’s an opinion but I think that’s a fairly well-thought-out opinion. It’s unfortunate. It’s right around the corner from my home. We don’t like the idea of closing schools – we don’t ever like the idea of schools being moved on – but it’s a community that needs productive use of facilities long-term and I think this is in the best interest of the community, of our kids and our staff in particular. I’m in support of it,” he said.

Earlier in the meeting, Dr. Krista Anderson, AJUSD superintendent, said there are 3,800 students enrolled, which is a reduction of 95 from last year.

There were 5,032 enrolled in the 2010-11 school year, according to the Arizona Education Department’s website, http://www.azed.gov/accountability-research/data. The AED uses Oct. 1 data. In 2011-2012, there were 4,879 students enrolled.

AJUSD was given permission to sell unused buildings at the Nov. 3 election. Gold Canyon Community Church is using the site at the former Gold Canyon Elementary School. The remaining buildings that could be sold: old Four Peaks Elementary School, 1755 N. Idaho Road, now the Boys and Girls Clubs of the East Valley – Superstition Branch; Superstition Mountain Elementary School, 550 S. Ironwood Drive, now with Centerstage Church and the Zao Theatre; and Thunder Mountain Middle School, 3700 E. 16th Ave., now used as the training facility for Superstition Fire and Medical District.

AJUSD serves students in a 217-square mile area that includes the city of Apache Junction, Gold Canyon, Peralta Trail, Queen Valley and the unincorporated areas of the Superstition Mountain foothills. Formed in 1952, the K-12 district features a one-to-one technology opportunity for grades 7-12. The focus of AJUSD is college and career readiness for all. For more information, call 480-982-1110, visit www.ajusd.org or go to www.facebook.com/ajusd43.

Former principal resigns

The AJUSD Governing Board had a special meeting at 5 p.m. Wednesday, Sept. 13, to in part consider the resignation of Four Peaks Elementary School’s principal, Karl Judd Waggoner. The meeting was held in the AJUSD board room, 1575 W. Southern Ave. The meeting agenda is at www.ajusd.org/documents.cfm?id=1763.

Mr. Waggoner was arrested by Pinal County Sheriff’s Office deputies Sept. 5 near the school, 1785 N. Idaho Road, on the charge of online luring and aggravated luring of a minor. Mr. Waggoner posted ads soliciting teen girls to go skinny dipping with him at his home. PCSO’s sex crimes detective conducted an undercover investigation, posing as a 14-year-old girl, after spotting one of Mr. Waggoner’s ads. During the course of the investigation, Mr. Waggoner engaged in sexually inappropriate conversations, discussed engaging in sexual acts with the undercover detective and provided sexually explicit photos, PCSO said.

Editor Richard Dyer can be reached at rdyer@newszap.com

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