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Mon, Nov. 29

Where is the collaboration? Sports Complex Center up in the air after recent decision by Grand Canyon School Board

The Sports Complex Center is located on Long Jim Loop in Tusayan, Arizona. (Photo/WGCN)

The Sports Complex Center is located on Long Jim Loop in Tusayan, Arizona. (Photo/WGCN)

Last week I attended a meeting of the Grand Canyon School Board, it left me concerned about the future of my community.

As a mom, the Town Manager of Tusayan and a member of this community, I crave unity and progress. That night I saw evidence of a lack of willingness to collaborate and empathize. Since I wasn’t allowed to speak then, I would like to speak now.

In 2020, the town of Tusayan signed an IGA with Grand Canyon Unified School District Governing Board (school) to help them better develop the School Complex property in Tusayan for community use. This appeared to be a great partnership opportunity.

One purpose of the land grant to the school was to build “cooperative use facilities that support education” (but are not exclusive to it). The cost of maintenance and construction would (at least initially) rest entirely with Tusayan, but the community families of Tusayan would share the benefits for generations to come. The school would be able to progress in ways that it had been financially restrained by in the past. It was a sensible synergy for all involved.

Plans, however, rarely come together as easily as conceived.

There is a long, costly, history between the town and the school of failure to fully execute plans. To be fair, there have been reasons for this on both sides. Recently, however, there has been remarkable progress on the Tusayan Town Council side as they have set aside the past for the betterment of the future. I have watched them defer to one another’s judgement, even when they as individuals don’t necessarily agree. I have been impressed by how well they have maintained their individual integrity while doing so.

For example, the first project to be approved by the school board was the Ramada/Outdoor Classroom (approved last fall). During the design phase this spring, costs skyrocketed (due to COVID and supply chain issues). The town council decided not to abandon the project but instead to dig in and stay true to their original commitment. They consulted with the working group (which includes, but is not limited to, two members chosen by the school board and the school superintendent has participated as well). The informal recommendation was made to cut back on costs and phase in improvements over time.

At the public council meeting in July, there was great diversity of thought and even dissent on this issue. After much discussion, Mayor Clarinda Vail, seconded by councilmember Baldosky made the tough motion. The plans would be scaled back, but the original structure would be kept in place. This would leave the functionality and purpose of the project, while allowing for amenities to be phased in over time. Once the vote succeeded, even those who chose not to support the motion have supported the cause for the betterment of our community.

At that time, the town went to the school and asked for input, even though it did not need official approval, the town wanted to be a good, collaborative neighbor. The town hosted a dinner meeting, where Vail invited the entire school board to list items in the project that they felt were key to have phased in immediately. One item raised was ADA (Americans with Disabilities Act) compliance. The town has been assured that the project will be ADA compliant.

Since this meeting, the town has attended at least three additional public school board meetings. We have provided all reasonable and available information that the school has requested. We have continued to ask that the board give us a formalized list of items that they deem necessary for “educational purposes.” No formalized list, to date, has been approved by the school board.

We have, however, worked diligently to address their many concerns such as the Forest Service (FS) being in opposition to the project. The town has received assurances that the local FS representatives are optimistic about the project and willing to assist. In response to concerns about the State Facilities Board, the town received assurances that their board is not concerned about the structure.

Yet last Wednesday, the school board took the unusual step of moving to trigger the arbitration clause in the IGA, which may result in ending the relationship between the school and the town entirely. Hearing the school board president talk of barring the public access to this community property, seemed contrary to everything we have been working towards.

I realize that it must have come as a disappointment to the school board when the council had to modify the project. I can tell you from first-hand experience it was extremely painful for each individual council member and the working group members, as well. But once a consensus was found they moved forward together for the betterment of the community.

My hope is that the school board will remember the collaborative intent of this project. I hope that they will reconsider their decision, so that the cooperative Ramada/Outdoor classroom will be completed in this community.

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