Sandoval: Former Challenger space opens to renewed excitement


If you’ve been anywhere near Sunrise Mountain High School lately, you are probably familiar with the excitement that has been emanating from that part of the Peoria Unified School District.

The energy has been coming from the transformation of the former Arizona Challenger Space Center into the new Sunrise Mountain Art Center (SMart Center).

The district has been steadfast in its commitment to ensuring a thriving community and a society of great character. This is realized through nurturing the creativity of our youth, promoting innovation and fostering learning and work environments that are inspiring, safe and supportive.  The development of the PUSD SMArt Center is a testament to this very intentional mindset and the district’s commitment to student success through the arts. 

The updated facility serves up to 200 students in five separate classroom spaces with art, ceramics and photography. 

Our Sunrise Mountain students have been using this facility since the beginning of the spring semester, and during the official ribbon cutting for the facility, Feb. 11, we honored the past and celebrated the future.

I would like to thank those who came before us that brought the original building to life – especially fellow board member, Mrs. Julia Smock, who served our district from the inception of this building to its completion. She shared with me the involvement of Peoria Unified students, the design and marketing of the center and the many meetings with Paul Winslow, the original architect, and artist Robert McCall, whose legendary mural will remain as part of the building.

Many have such fond memories of the unique space, and the number of students who were impacted by this building is a list infinitely long.

I am beyond thrilled that through inclusive, diligent and solutions-oriented conversations, our governing board was able to preserve the space and the artwork.  I am also proud that learning and innovation will continue there. And I am thankful for the team who worked tirelessly to make this vision a reality.

Surely the new SMart Center will help us in continuing the mission of preparing every student for academic excellence and a successful future as a responsible citizen who actively contributes to society, the community and the workforce. 

I am looking forward to what’s next as we embark on this new vision.

Editor’s note: Mr. Sandoval is the president of the Peoria Unified School District Governing Board.