The Tempe Union’s Innovation Center, which had only recently opened after two years of planning, will shut down at the end of this academic year due to budget issues. The district suffered a larger-than-expected enrollment drop, resulting in a projected loss of $3.5 million in state funding. The building, which underwent a $1 million renovation, will be repurposed, and officials are working with students who had enrolled for the next year to adjust their class schedules.
Tempe Union’s Innovation Center Scheduled for Closure
Tempe Union’s Innovation Center will be closed by the end of this school year despite a $1 million renovation following the closure of Compadre High School in spring 2021. The closing comes shortly after a grand opening celebration in November, where hundreds of students, educators, parents, and local business representatives attended.
The decision was driven by a much larger than expected decrease in enrollment, leading to a projected loss of $3.5 million in state funding. District officials stressed that the closure does not reflect on the center’s quality or achievements but is a response to nationwide budget challenges faced by public schools.
The center was an initiative of former superintendent Dr. Kevin Mendivil, now a principal in the Chandler Unified School District. Under the direction of Dr. Christine Barela, former principal of Desert Vista High School, the center functioned as an auxiliary learning platform for students, enabling them to work on complex projects with local business mentors.
Despite the closure, district official Megan Sterling reassured that it would not affect the 84 students currently enrolled, as counselors are organizing adjustments to their future schedules. She praised the center as a “significant milestone in innovating the ways we provide education for our students in Tempe Union High School District.”
Parents and students expressed disappointment over the closure during a board meeting in January, with many crediting the center for significant improvements in their children’s attitudes and academic performance. A Desert Vista High School sophomore said the center had “invigorated” her, transforming her from a mediocre student into an A-grade one.
Future plans for the center’s facilities are still under discussion. Sterling assured that the renovation expenditure was not wasted as the renovations were designed to accommodate multiple programs, providing flexibility for the district. Other buildings on the campus will continue to be used for training, professional development, and office space for around 50 staff members.