Casteel High School to serve Queen Creek, Chandler

Casteel High School, 24901 S. Power Road, is Chandler Unified School District’s first campus built within the Queen Creek town limits. Its first day of classes is scheduled for July 20. (Arianna Grainey/Independent Newspapers)

Two new schools have opened to serve Queen Creek. Auxier Elementary, 22700 S. Power Road, will serve kindergarten to sixth grades, while Casteel High School, 24901 S. Power Road, will have students from seventh through 12th grades. Both are part of the Chandler Unified School District, whose 2015-16 school year begins July 20.

While Chandler Unified School District has always taken Queen Creek students, the presence in the community is getting strong.

“We are very excited to be part of the town,” Principal Sandy Lundberg said during an interview. “We have been part of the Queen Creek community but now we get to have an actual physical presence and it makes our partnership more real.”

Casteel will open with grades seven through nine. Each year an additional grade will be added up to 12th grade. The incoming seventh graders will be the first students to go through each grade of the school.

Casteel High School is 168,121 square feet in size, according to the Maricopa County assessor’s office. The school’s construction started last summer and most of phase one is completed. The gym floor will be completed in two weeks, Ms. Lundberg said. Phase two of construction will begin in January and will be home to the state-of-the-art graphics lab, a performing arts center, additional classrooms and a second gym, according to Ms. Lundberg.

The school’s official colors are navy and Vegas Gold and the mascot is a Colt.

Chandler school district conducted a study to see if the district could service the growth that was taking place, Ms. Lundberg. The study found that the district did not have enough capacity at the current schools for the enrollment growth at the southeastern edge of the district. The Chandler district ends at Sossaman Road and Hunt Highway.

“Hamilton (High School) is currently at 4,000 the other (high) schools are at 3,000,” Ms. Lundberg said. “We’re meant to be smaller with a capacity of 2,200.”

Ms. Lundberg said that CUSD was a district of giving people choices and the community wanted a smaller high school.
New freshman Jacob Newman and his mother, Ann, attended Casteel Colt Days on July 16, when students could pick up their schedules.

Ms. Newman said one reason she chose to send her son to Casteel, was it was close to her work. But Casteel had other appeals for Ms. Newman.

“I liked the idea of him being in ninth grade. It would start the first graduating class,” Ms. Newman said.

Jacob said that he is looking forward to being part of the new school’s first graduating class.

Incoming Casteel High School freshman Jacob Newman, left, and his mom, Ann, pick up his schedule from Jared Sternmer, an eighth- and ninth-grade language arts teacher July 16 in the school’s library. (Arianna Grainey/Independent Newspapers)

“It’s awesome really because there’s no one ahead of us, no seniors to make fun of us,” Jacob said. “It’s awesome that we can be the first to graduate Casteel High. It’s a privilege.”

The seventh to 12th model was chosen because students are more successful when they have fewer transitions, Ms. Lundberg said.

This smaller school will offer students athletics and activities, just like the larger Chandler district schools.

“We are going to have all athletics,” Athletic Director Tom Dunn said. “Any sports that are offered at any of the high schools we will have.”

Programs include football, tennis, golf, swimming, basketball and more, Mr. Dunn said.

“This first year with only having freshman, we’ll be just playing a freshman schedule,” Mr. Dunn said. “It won’t be just with Division III, we have scheduled our sister schools, with Perry and Hamilton. We scheduled Queen Creek, Higley and Williams Field, locally.”

The school will potentially petition to play in Division IV next year at the varsity level, Mr. Dunn said.

“We are going to be excellent in anything we do,” Mr. Dunn said. “It’s going to start with academics but it will carry over in to our fine arts and into our athletic fields as well.”

Schools in the Chandler district are known locally and across the nation for powerhouse sports. MaxPreps in 2015 named Chandler High School No.17 in the nation for football. But athletics aren’t the only focus, the school will have many STEM classes, according to Ms. Lundberg. The school is going to offer advanced technology and courses. STEM is an acronym for science, technology and mathematics.

“We’ll have a Kindergarten-12 articulation with engineering and Project Lead The Way that is unique with how we are structuring that,” Ms. Lundberg said. “We are the only school in the state that right now is able to do that with our design-thinking class, which is modeled after the maker movement.” The maker movement is a movement across the country to make and DIY solutions to problems. According to Project Lead The Way’s website, they are a 501(c)3 nonprofit organization, which is the nation’s leading provider of K-12

STEM programs that delivers PLTW programs to more than 6,500 elementary, middle, and high schools in all 50 states and the District of Columbia. PLTW schools can be found in rural, urban, and suburban districts; across all income levels; as well as in public, private and charter schools.

Chandler will be the only district in Arizona that offers the Kindergarten-12 project, according to Ms. Lundberg. Students start modules in elementary and in junior high and high school students work on larger more complex projects, she said. Some of the projects will include robotics and coding. Students are asked to design a solution to a problem, according to Ms. Lundberg. The students then research their solution and then act to create their own solution.

The school will also be a Bring Your Own Device school, which means cell phones, laptops and tablets will be encouraged, not confiscated.

“The focus has been on how we integrate that technology,” Ms. Lundberg said. “We will be able to turn their devices and our white boards into smart boards and responders.”

Students will be able to hook into the technology via QR codes. QR codes are scanable barcodes that can link a person’s phone to a website or other technology. Teachers will be able to see a student’s screens on their computers and will be able to show the screens on the white boards.

The technology will also be used in place of some books.

“The one teacher was talking to me about dictionaries and thesauri, that they are not necessary,” Jacob said. “We don’t have to get up and disrupt the class to get a dictionary.”

To find out more information about how to enroll, visit http://www.mychandlerschools.org/casteelhigh or call 480-424-8100.

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