MARICOPA — After many delays, the students and faculty of Heritage Academy-Maricopa are in their new facilities — sort of.
The first floor is built and already accommodating students, but much still remains to be finished. Despite this, faculty and students are feeling positive about the new campus.
“It’s been going in phases,” said Assistant Principal Barry Halterman, sitting in his would-be office, currently filled to the ceiling with band equipment. “We were able to move some things over from our previous location at UltraStar, and we’re settling in here. There are some challenges, which are to be expected given the circumstances, but it’s been going good.”
The school had originally planned to be out of UltraStar’s movie theaters and event spaces by Sept. 30, but due to construction delays and a shortage of workers, they were unable to move in until Oct. 28. The kids have taken it all in stride.
“Of course, there were a lot of jokes made about the popcorn smell and whatnot over there in UltraStar,” Halterman said with a smile. “It’s been really impressive to see how resilient these kids are. ... The kids and their families have been great.”
Jared Taylor, charter representative and chief executive officer of Heritage Academy, said the second floor is scheduled to be finished in November, followed shortly by a “beautiful gymnasium.” The school will also eventually have a large field for sports and recreation and, in the coming years, an auditorium.
Dance teacher Mandi Lopez, who teaches ballroom dance, yoga, pilates and bowling at the academy, was excited to move into her new classroom. She had previously been teaching in the carpeted upstairs hallways of UltraStar, making use of the limited resources the students had to express themselves uniquely in the space.
“Now that we’re here, we’re still teaching on carpet, but we at least have a light at the end of the tunnel. We know we’re going to have some floors and they’re working really hard,” Lopez said.
With just two days on the new campus, she and her students are already planning for a performance show.
“We’re getting ready for a showcase that we’re planning,” Lopez said excitedly. “They’re performing for all of their friends and family. We’re having a catered meal, it’s going to be like a semi-formal event. So they have routines they’re working on and it’s so cute.”
In addition to the arts, Halterman understands the importance of athletics in Maricopa. The school has gotten several teams up and running already with the help of those like basketball coach James Deakyne, a Heritage Academy graduate himself. He graduated from Heritage Academy in Mesa in 2013 and returned after a stint in the Marine Corps to coach boys basketball.
Deakyne had coaching history at Heritage Academy-Mesa and South Pointe High School already, so when he accepted the position at Heritage Academy-Maricopa, he took a few star players with him. His brother is a top sophomore in the state for basketball, according to Deakyne, and he left Perry High School to come join him in Maricopa.
That’s not all — Deakyne is gathering interest to introduce a wrestling team next year, and talks of a high school tackle football team are already in the works.
Just some of the other sports offered at Heritage Academy include swimming, volleyball, flag football, cross country and softball.
Halterman has other big plans he’d like to see come to fruition over the next few years. Formerly working at Heritage Academy in Laveen, he was a geologist and science teacher before moving to administration. He hopes to take the students on field trips to help further broaden their horizons.
“We’re going to bring some of our Heritage kids along on a field trip to Puerto Rico that’ll be kind of a combined field trip where they will focus on Spanish language learning, but also science,” Halterman said, “to just help them see beyond the borders of the campus.”
With so much still under the wraps of construction, it’s hard to picture the finished campus. However, the faculty and students of Heritage Academy Maricopa remain positive as they look to the future of the school.