Build it and they will come

AN ARTIST’S RENDERING shows what Marionneaux Elementary will look like once built. The newest school in the Buckeye Elementary School District is under construction at Roeser Road and 238th Lane in Buckeye, and is expected to open for the 2017-18 school year. Submitted rendering
AN ARTIST’S RENDERING shows what Marionneaux Elementary will look like once built. The newest school in the Buckeye Elementary School District is under construction at Roeser Road and 238th Lane in Buckeye, and is expected to open for the 2017-18 school year. Submitted rendering

New elementary school under construction in Buckeye

It looks harder to say than it actually is, Marionneaux Elementary — pronounced Mary-in-no — is the newest addition being built in the Buckeye Elementary School District, and will be as unique as its name.

The 15-acre campus on Roeser Road and 238th Lane in Buckeye broke ground Oct. 4, 2016, and is still in the construction phase. It is scheduled to be up and running by the 2017-18 school year beginning in August.

If you’ve ever heard of the saying, ‘Build it and they will come,’ when you build a new school, you draw more people into your economy and it’s really good for the city as well,” said Kristi Sandvik, superintendent of Buckeye Elementary School District.

The campus, which will cost $20.8 million to construct and furnish, will be paid for by a bond passed by the Buckeye community in November 2015 along with adjacent ways funds and developer assistance donations, Sandvik said.

It’s been in the making for more than a decade, since the Marionneaux family donated their land in 2004 for the sole purpose of a school, said Nate Bowler, assistant superintendent of business operations for the district.

The family came to the board in 2006 to ask to officially name the school after the Marionneaux family, so it has been a while in the making,” he said.

Approving the name just made sense, said Principal Nick Forgette, who will lead the new school.

We wanted to honor them, so that was the easy part, the naming of it,” he said.

Marionneaux will be a kindergarten through eighth-grade campus that is unique to other schools in the district, because officials had more time to plan instead of rushing to keep up with the growing population, said Lester Dunning, the district’s director of maintenance and transportation.

In 2003, we built Bales Elementary. From that time on, we were building schools one after the other not having the time to go back with the committees to get the input from the parents, the input from all of the different teachers and staff and maintenance, because we didn’t have that time,” Dunning said. “We were building too fast. We finally got ahead of the game to actually breathe and say,

You know, we want to make this right.’ Time has changed from 2003, so now we need to look at how this building really needs to be designed and that is why you see changes, like from one building to three.”

During the planning phase, the district reached out to the community to find out what it wanted most from the school, and the pupils were at the center of the decision-making process, Forgette said.

The school’s mascot will be the Tigers, and its colors are purple, black and silver. However, one pupil request had to be left out — a recreational pool, Forgette said.

We wanted something that was warm, welcoming, safe and also that’s blending in with the communities surrounding it,” he said.

Marionneaux will have multiple buildings, including an administration building with kindergarten through fifth grades; a middle school building for grades sixth though eighth and also science, technology, engineering and math; and a multipurpose building with a gym, cafeteria and library, Forgette said.

I think one of the most unique aspects of the school is that it will have a science lab and STEM lab,” he said. “This will be the second campus in our school district that will have a separate gymnasium and cafeteria. None of our schools are actual junior highs — this campus will have a separate sixth through eighth building that will serve as the junior high structure of Marionneaux.”

As pupils evolve, schools need to evolve with them, and the need to start technology young is key, Sandvik said.

It’s a technology-rich environment and a place where socialization and friendships can be made,” she said. “It really gives students the opportunity to thrive.”

The school will feature upgraded technology featured in the school’s STEM lab that is not only unique to the Buckeye Elementary School District, but also to the West Valley and even the country, Forgette said.

[The STEM lab] has a 35 point interactive wall. You can think of it as a large tablet. With that, it will increase the access that our students are going to have to that technology,” he said. “It’s the first of its type to be used in this capacity in an elementary school in the United States.”

The infamous crowded school pick-up and drop-off lines was another problem the district listened to the community about, which led to innovative thinking, Dunning said.

Twice as many parking spaces and one of the longest pick-up and drop-off lines in the state were included in the plans, along with programs to encourage pupils to walk and bike to school, Dunning said.

We feel we’ve gone the extra mile in that area,” he said.

When the school opens in August, it will help relieve class sizes at the district’s other campuses by pulling about 500 pupils, Sandvik said.

When you look to ask your community to support a bond and pay for a school, it’s primarily to focus on population and growth,” she said. “When you have overcrowding, you have safety issues to take into consideration.”

As the city grows, the community and education needs to grow with it, Sandvik said.

If you’re up to speed on the city of Buckeye, you know that it’s one of the safest cities in the United States,” Sandvik said. “When you have a choice of where you want to live, where you want to raise your children and where you want to begin your life, we try to say to ourselves, ‘Well, why Buckeye?’ and the answer is, ‘Well, why not?’”

Marionneaux will have a unique newness that Sandvik said she hopes parents will embrace.

Given that we live in a world of choice and we know that students and parents have several opportunities and choices to choose from, that we feel like this is a good choice for them,” she said. “I think parents can expect that when they walk into the school, they’ll be able to see that the learning environment may look a little bit different in terms of adaptability and flexibility in the learning spaces.”

Although the school will have many new features, high education standards will stay the same, Sandvik said.

[Teachers, pupils and parents] can expect the same that they get from all of our schools and that’s high expectations for learning and quality teachers,” she said. “Our passion and our dedication to quality instruction, that’s something that we all strive to provide for all of our students, no matter what campus they’re on.”


Kourtney Balsan can be reached at

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