The Saguaro Innovation Center took its first steps to existence after the Scottsdale Unified School District Governing Board unanimously gave Director of Building Services Dennis Roehler the go-ahead to begin designing.
The board heard Mr. Roehler’s presentation at its Nov. 19 meeting. Mr. Roehler covered what the students were looking for in an innovation center, potential layouts and a timeline.
Overall, Mr. Roehler is proposing renovations to a makerspace for Saguaro student programs such as robotics, manufacturing and entrepreneurship. Students at Saguaro use a small existing open structure at the school in Scottsdale at 6250 N. 82nd St.
A makerspace is an area with resources allowing students to enter with an idea and leave with a project. The idea is for a communal space, allowing for collaboration and idea sharing.
Potential plans call for a replacement of the existing structure into a new enclosed edifice. While Mr. Roehler did present a schematic design, final plans were not set at this point.
“This, I think, gives us a chance to do something unique for these kids and to set a pattern for the district, but also to compete,” SUSD Superintendent Dr. John Kriekard said.
The approval was only for Mr. Roehler to move forward into the design phase. A final design and contract award will come forward at a later date. Mr. Roehler estimates the budget to be between $900,000 and $1.1 million.
Governing Board Vice President Allyson Beckham had concerns of the cost but Mr. Roehler assured her the money was available through savings on other life cycle projects from the 2016 voter-approved bond such as roof projects at Coronado and Desert Mountain high schools. He said when he brought the project back to the board, he would have a more flushed-out budget showing where the money came from, specifically.
“We are being ultra conservative,” he said. “I would not bring this to you unless I could show you that the dollars are there without taking away from someone else’s anticipated project.”
Mr. Roehler hosted several brainstorming and goal-setting sessions with students to understand what they were looking for in the makerspace. Students wanted a building open to more than just robotics to allow for idea mixing among the various programs.
Mr. Roehler said in his capacity, he doesn’t interact with the students in the district often but said as he spoke with them in gathering thoughts for the space, he was impressed.
“We’ve got brilliant, brilliant young adults in our schools,” he said. “They’ve got a lot of ideas and they’ve got a lot of drive to do some really good things. So, as Dr. Kriekard had mentioned, investing in our program, I think this is one way of doing it.”
From here, Mr. Roehler will continue working with the architect on designing the building with a goal to present those final plans, as well as a detailed budge, in about four to six weeks.
Following that presentation, Mr. Roehler would work to obtain a general contractor with plans for completion by late August, though not by the beginning of the 2020-21 school year.
Boardmember Barbara Perleberg said she believes this building would complement the school’s Math and Science Academy and is what the district and school need.
“This is something that is unique, it will absolutely give us a competitive edge but I also know it is very real, what’s behind it: the learning that is behind this Math and Science Academy, the academics, the strong academics, and just that overall competitive edge that we know our community looks for. The fact that we are sitting here tonight being asked to invest in that and help it grow and not, hopefully, get bogged down with a lot of ‘I’d like to but we can’t,’” she said.
“To me, this is a perfect example of the answers our district needs to find in the very near future.”