MESA, AZ (3TV/CBS 5) - Some parents and kids in the East Valley will start the new school year off with a shorter commute to school.
The Queen Creek Unified School District will open up two new schools in Mesa on Wednesday. They are Eastmark High School and Silver Valley Elementary School.
The two schools are east of the Phoenix-Mesa Gateway Airport in the new master-planned housing developments Eastmark and Cadence at Gateway.
"Previously, students would have to commute down Ellsworth road, which can take anywhere from 25 minutes to 35 minutes in the morning to get to school. So, we realized we needed an option for students on this side of the district," said Jim Lamb, QCUSD's director of bonds.
He added the growth in the area is moving at a rapid pace.
"This part of our district is per capita, one of the fastest-growing areas in the country," said Lamb.
Lamb said crews broke ground on the elementary school in March of 2018 and the high school in November of 2017.
Eastmark High School will take about 800 seventh- through 10th-graders for its first year. The feature Lamb said is unique is the so-called "learning stairs." It serves as a place for students to sit and has outlets to charge their electronic devices. The space is also paired with the auditorium. Classrooms will have rolling desks and chairs on wheels so teachers can easily rearrange the learning environment. Officials said Eastmark's focus will be on its Career Path Academies, which gives students a hands-on approach to explore what kind of career they want to pursue.
Silver Valley Elementary will have nearly 600 pre-K through sixth-grade students for its first year. School officials say it'll be STEAM focused. It's decked out with high-tech technology like smart panels which give teachers the ability to write and save their work on a big monitor. It also has breakout areas in the hallways with special paint that transforms the walls into a dry erase surface. Students can write on the walls with a dry erase marker, and it'll come off.
Lamb said it cost a total of $70 million to build both schools and that a voter-approved bond paid for half of it and the other half came from the state.