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Charter School Plans Expansion For Land Envisioned As Gilbert Commercial Space

A charter school plans to expand in Gilbert near the Santan Freeway and Higley Road.

Higley Unified School District once had its eye on the same land but backed off because the town’s general plan envisioned the property as a business park.

“Previous applicants have chosen to adhere to the general plan and look for property elsewhere, whereas in this instance, the applicant has decided to move forward,” said Kyle Mieras, Gilbert’s director of development services.

He said state law gives public-school districts and charter schools the power to build on any property.

The charter school, American Leadership Academy, plans to build a K-12 school and proposed Gilbert annex the land, which is currently a county island, to make it part of the town.

Gilbert staff have recommended the council approve the annexation at Thursday’s meeting.

“It’s always best for the town to have the county islands annexed into the town in order for us to have a more efficient way of providing services to the community,” Mieras said.

At a December public meeting, education leaders from local public districts recommend studying the area's needs before green-lighting an agreement that would bring another school into the area.

Attorney Ralph Pew, who represents American Leadership Academy, said a school will still benefit the community, even if it was not part of the original plan.

“What they will bring is a first-class, high-quality K-12 school,” Pew said.

American Leadership Academy has also agreed to study traffic impacts and improve roads around the 40-acre property.

Mariana Dale rustles up stories as a senior field correspondent based out of KJZZ’s East Valley Bureau in Tempe. She’s followed a microphone onto cattle ranches, to the Dominican Republic and many places in between. Dale believes in a story’s strength to introduce us to diverse perspectives, inspire curiosity and hold public leaders accountable for their actions. She started at KJZZ on the digital team in 2016 and still spends a lot of time thinking about how to engage with our community online. Dale has learned from stints at Arizona Public Media, The Arizona Daily Star, The Arizona Republic and as an intern at NPR’s Morning Edition in Culver City. She graduated from the University of Arizona with a bachelor’s degree in journalism. Dale is grateful for the mentoring of the New York Times Student Journalism Institute, the Chips Quinn Scholars program and AIR’s New Voices Scholars. A desert native, she loves spending time outside hiking, tending to her cactus and reading.