By Jennifer Marshall

As of February 2018, the Phoenix Metro Area made the cut on Forbes Magazine’s list of “America’s Fastest-Growing Cities 2018.” However, growth comes with serious responsibilities in terms of expanding and maintaining the proper infrastructure. Highways and roads are only one consideration though. Leaders in these rapidly developing communities also need to be conscious of having sufficient services in place, such as schools, libraries, hospitals, etc., to support a burgeoning population.

The Norterra neighborhood of North Phoenix is experiencing unprecedented prosperity. Planning and hoping to stay ahead of the projected population increase, the School Board for the Deer Valley Unified School District approved on January 8, 2019 the construction of a new K-8 school.

“I’m just so excited about the opportunity to provide for more families in a new community,” said Deer Valley Unified School Board President Ann Ordway. “With the great learning experiences we provide our students in Deer Valley, it’s going to be awesome.”

The neighborhood is anchored by two major entities: The Shops at Norterra and the USAA Corporate Campus, which owns the swath of land encircling much of its office complex. Current and future development planned by USAA will include the following offerings: retail, office, mixed use space and, of course, new homes are definitely in the works. In addition to existing residential choices in Norterra, the residential portion of USAA’s Union Park, a high-end master-planned community, came online in December 2018.

According to the residential website for the new community: “Union Park at Norterra’s proposed master plan includes 1,100 single-family homes, 1,100 multi-family units, a hotel, office space, a school site, and a retail corridor of specialty restaurants, shopping and outdoor gathering areas.”

The reference to “a school site” denotes the land that’s been earmarked for the construction of the new K-8 Union Park School. Norterra Canyon School and Sonoran Foothills School, both K-8 schools serving the area, are, at present-day, almost full. Consequently, the new Union Park School is clearly needed in order to support and make this tremendous scale of growth possible. Based on the most available data, though, school officials don’t anticipate the need to construct a new high school, but should the expected population numbers change, the Deer Valley Unified School District has retained land for this purpose.

“It’s always great to be the community school,” said Ordway. “The sense of community is really what makes the world go round, so if your school is the heart of the community, then it’s all up from there.”

Back in 2013, Deer Valley School Officials must have foreseen an extraordinary degree of future growth in the area, because a bond election was held for the sole purpose of financing a new school. The bond passed, and now this money will fund the Union Park School project, which will carry two different start times. Once 100 houses in USAA’s Union Park have sold, architects will go to work designing the new school, and once 200 additional houses have sold, engineers and construction workers will break ground.

As for USAA’s role in this process, it was significant given the fact that the land belonged to them. Of course, it was to everyone’s benefit to see the fulfillment of a brand new school. Therefore, instead of doing a strict monetary transaction, they decided to trade land for land.

Not far away, at 43rd Avenue and Alameda Road, the Deer Valley Unified School District owned a 14 acre plot of land. Since this land hadn’t been designated for any upcoming building projects, the School Board decided it was worth giving up in order to build the school they needed in Norterra. Therefore, they traded their land with USAA for their 12 acre tract of land that will soon be home to the future Union Park School. Rounding out the agreement, for USAA’s part, they’ve agreed to install roads where the new school will be built.

“I like being able to serve kids,” said Ordway, “and make sure they can go into a school that’s going to really promote their academic, social and emotional needs. And when they have a real community place to learn, I can’t think of anything better than that.”

Welcome to the neighborhood Union Park School.