New High School Information

A planning committee has spent the last year working on a vision for the new high school.

Plans call for building the first phase of a large, 2,000 student, comprehensive high school. It is expected the school will be similar in size and scope of offerings — academic and athletic — as Cienega.

The first phase will accommodate 1,000 students.

The illustration indicates the components in the master plan for the school. It also shows plans for what will be provided in the first phase, as well as what is likely to be built in a second phase. It is expected the second phase will be built five or six years after the first phase — depending on enrollment growth.

The planning committee for the new school chose a site on Valencia, just east of Houghton. The District is currently pursuing acquisition of the site from the State Land Department.

The State has approved full funding for the purchase of the site. The State has also approved an allocation of $22 million toward the cost of building and equipping the school. The planning committee determined that an additional $35 million of local bond funding will be necessary to build and fully equip the first phase.


New HS Phases

New High School Information

Why do we need a new high school?

Vail’s high schools are beyond full. Library and teacher workroom spaces have been converted into classrooms. Online and early college options have been added. Open enrollment students are being turned away. A new high school is needed. K-8 schools are also near capacity. In recognition of these needs, the State has awarded the Vail School District partial funding for a new high school and a new K-8 school. While this funding is most helpful and greatly appreciated, it will not cover actual costs.

Citizen committees who have been studying the district’s needs throughout the past school year recommend an additional $35 million for a high school and an additional $10 million for a K-8 school. A high school planning committee made up of community members and staff has recommended that the district build the first phase of a comprehensive, 2,000-student high school. The first phase is planned to serve 1,000 students and be located on Valencia Road, just east of Houghton Road. A location for a K-8 school will be determined at a later date, depending on where the most growth occurs.


Amazon is coming to Vail — a $600 million impact over the next five years according to Joe Snell of the Sun Corridor, Inc. Raytheon’s presence is being expanded. IBM just celebrated its 40th birthday and is going strong. The UA Tech Park is at capacity and adding The Village at Rita Road — a mixed-use development that will include retail, commercial, residential, and hotel. Home construction is booming, and home values are increasing. A major draw for high tech companies and their employees is top quality schools and vibrant communities. The press release from the Tech Park says it well: “The UA Tech Park at Rita Road benefits from a number of strategic advantages which create a critical mass not often seen in most development projects. It is strategically located in one of the fastest growing regions in Tucson and Pima County and in one of the area’s best school districts – Vail Unified School District.” Economic growth brings more jobs. Jobs bring more homes. Homes bring more students. Those new students need schools, buses, and technology.

Future of High School Choice

One of the things that sets Vail apart is that parents choose a high school for their children. There are no high school attendance boundaries in Vail. Choice provides parents with the power to select a school that is the best fit for their child. It is popular with both parents and students. Choice improves ownership, academic success, and graduation rates. The Vail Governing Board recently approved a revised choice plan that incorporates the planned new high school. The revised plan maintains parent choice. The only change is that transportation will no longer be provided for every choice. The District will be divided into two high school zones. The new high school will serve one zone, and Cienega will serve the other zone. Parents living in the new school zone could still choose to send their child to Cienega, but transportation would not be provided. Conversely, parents living in the Cienega zone could choose to send their child to the new high school but would have to provide their own transportation. The zone parameters have not been established. This illustration is only conceptual. The primary purpose of the revised choice plan is to reduce busing costs. Parents would still be able to choose the other high schools in the District (Empire, VAHS, Vail Innovation Center, and Andrada) regardless of where they live. At this point no changes are planned in regard to current transportation services to the other high schools.


HS map2

Frequently Asked Questions

Will a $61 million bond solve the District’s capital needs?

Unfortunately not. $61 million is not enough to meet many important needs in the District. However it will cover the most pressing and significant needs.

Why have so many capital purchases been delayed?

When the recession hit around 2008, the State reduced per student funding by over 20%. Additionally, almost all funding for capital expenditures — including all building renewal (major maintenance) was cut. Like many others, the District “tightened belts” and avoided buying anything that wasn’t absolutely necessary. Most of that funding has not been restored. Meanwhile the needs have continued to build up.

Shouldn't the people moving to the area pay for the new school?

Yes, that would be the logical solution. However, the total tax revenue generated from new homes does not approach building costs.

New Home Tax Revenue

What has the District been doing to seek additional grants or other revenue?

The District has been awarded a number of grants. However, most of them have been comparatively small and focused on specific projects. It is virtually impossible to even find (let alone win) a grant that builds school facilities or pays for regular teachers. The District has successfully obtained some additional revenue by selling services created by the District’s staff. Over 100 school districts and charters are now paying the District for access to Beyond Textbooks. The District is also selling other services to school districts. Those services include: student data management and uploading as well as distance learning programs. It is important to note, however, that most of the revenue referenced above goes to covering costs. School districts are not — by nature or legal definition — a profit center. Public schools are designed to be funded… by the public.New Home Tax Revenue

Why doesn’t the District stop accepting open enrollment students?

The District does not accept open enrollment students at the high school level. We also turn away most K-8 open enrollment students. We currently do accept some. As new K-8 students move into the district we will “turn off the valve” of open enrollment students. This is expected to happen in the next few years.

A school district operates under similar efficiency principles as businesses. Just like the airlines, we are most efficient when every seat is full. Unlike the airlines however, we don’t have to “sell” the last few seats at a discount. We receive the same funding from the State for open enrollment students as resident students. The additional income generated from these students makes it possible for the District to retain highly valued programs that would otherwise have to be cut. Schools that are filled with students who live in the District do not accept new open enrollment students.

What will happen if there is no bond election or a bond election fails?

School Districts must legally accept every student who lives in their attendance boundaries. As new homes are built, and new students move into the district, schools will get more and more overcrowded.

Capital expenditures that absolutely must be made (i.e., replacing a broken air conditioner or replacing a transmission on an old bus) will be made from the operations budget. About 85% of the operations budget is people. Most of the remaining 15% is made up of expenses that simply must be paid (i.e., utilities, insurance, etc.). Bottom line: classroom spending will be affected.

Governing Board contacts

Community members are invited to provide input to board members before they vote on June 26. Emails sent to comments@vailschooldistrict. org will be distributed to all members of the board: Jon Aitken, Claudia Anderson, Allison Pratt, Mark Tate, and Callie Tippett.