Kyrene Elementary School District hopes to launch onto the popularity of traditional schools when it opens a traditional academy next school year.

The district announced plans this fall to convert Kyrene del Sureno, 3375 W. Galveston St., Chandler, into a back-to-basics school for students.

The school currently has 388 students in grades kindergarten through five, the lowest enrollment in the district. With room for more than 700 students, it is an underutilized campus. And with several traditional schools in the community — Chandler Unified School District has several traditional academies and several charter schools use that format — adopting that formula seems like a natural, popular choice for parents, said district spokeswoman Kelly Alexander.

“We don’t want to close a school,” Alexander said of the few students enrolled at the campus. “We felt repurposing was a better option for us. Traditional was something we’ve been asked about before.”

Traditional schools typically have a high structure, a dress code, a focus on math, literature and writing, and an expectation for parent involvement. The district is looking at using Saxon Math, Spalding for reading and writing, and Junior Great Books, according to the district website.

The school’s current principal is retiring at the end of this school year. Marianne Lescher, principal at Kyrene de la Mariposa Elementary School in Tempe, will take over the traditional academy, Alexander said.

The district has formed a transition team that includes parents to look at all the changes that need to be made and what curriculum may be used. The school will be open for enrollment to anyone in or outside of the Kyrene Elementary School District.

Back-to-basics schools are popular in the East Valley, and successful based on current Arizona measures. Many of Mesa Unified School District’s Franklin schools, which use the traditional formula, earned As from the state this week. Chandler’s traditional academies all earned As.

In fact, most traditional and back-to-basics schools have waiting lists in at least one grade level.

So popular are the schools that two years ago the Mesa district took a neighborhood school — Alma Elementary School — and converted it to a Franklin campus, much like Kyrene is looking to do with Sureno.

Mesa is now looking at moving Franklin Northeast, Franklin South and Franklin Junior High to the Brimhall Junior High School campus. Currently, those Franklin schools are on campuses that are made up of portable buildings, while Brimhall’s enrollment means only half the campus is being used.

Kyrene is still exploring what grade levels will be offered at the new traditional academy, Alexander said last month.

“We want our current Sureno families to be able to make a choice whether or not they stay. We’re hoping a majority do, but we understand this concept may not be what everyone desires. We’ll ask them to make decision in December,” she said. “We begin an actual open enrollment process in January. We want to give our current students first choice and opportunity in the new school.”

For more information, see the district website,

• Contact writer: (480) 898-6549 or

​Michelle Reese, East Valley Tribune


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