LGE Design Build Breaks Ground on $4.5 Million Phoenix School for The ACES

LGE Design Build has broken ground on the $4.5 million Phoenix West Campus of The Austin Centers for Exceptional Students (The ACES). The ACES, a state approved school, is the largest private provider of special education in Arizona partnering with 65 districts and charter schools.


The 30,000-square-foot Phoenix West Campus, located at 89th Ave. and McDowell, will feature:

• • Sensory room for students with autism

• • Life skills room to teach independent living

• • Vocational technology center to teach construction, auto mechanics, woodworking, landscaping and computer skills

• • Commercial kitchen to teach food handling skills

• • Performing arts area for music, art and drama

Located on four acres, the K-12 school will have fields, basketball courts and a large playground to encourage physical fitness. The school will open in the fall.

“Building enhanced therapy and specialized academic settings for students while keeping in mind the importance of functionality and aesthetics will make the Phoenix West Campus a fun project for our team,” said Dave Sellers, LGE president.

The school will serve approximately 75 students in the Southwest Valley with autism, emotional disabilities and intellectual disabilities. The ACES offers behavioral and academic remediation, and returns about 30 percent of the student population to their public schools each year. The teacher to student ratio is 1:1.5 in classes for students with autism.

“The new campus is going to be beautiful and a great addition to an already vibrant and supportive community.

The students will have access to a dedicated computer lab, sensory room, life skills and vocational technology center, on-site therapy animals, as well as enjoy spacious classrooms. The Phoenix West Austin Centers for Exceptional Students will be a place for students to expand their knowledge, grow as individuals, and ultimately achieve their goals,” said Leigh Trainor, who will serve as principal of the Phoenix West Campus.

The Phoenix West Campus replaces the Avondale campus, housed in leased space.

Other campuses are in Peoria and Tempe. The Peoria campus houses approximately 150 therapy animals including mini horses, goats, pigs, rabbits, reptiles and birds. Those animals will be visiting students on the new campus to teach empathy and compassion. In addition to prevocational training on site, students frequently volunteer in the community with organizations such as Maricopa County Animal Control.

“Our goal is to launch a cycle of success. We look for the key to unlock the potential of each child.

Sometimes the key is academic remediation and sometimes it is as simple as bonding with a staff member,” said Francie Austin, President and CEO of The ACES. “Our schools are warm, loving environments with firm boundaries and a commitment to absolute excellence.”

Phoenix Vice Mayor Daniel T. Valenzuela joined the groundbreaking on April 17, turning a spade of dirt and assisting students in burying a time capsule. State Representative, Dr. Heather Carter, was also an honored guest.

“This project is a win on so many levels because it is an investment in the economic diversity and vitality of West Phoenix and, most important, an investment in the future of some very special young people,” said Vice Mayor Daniel T. Valenzuela. “I am honored and humbled to be a part of a truly groundbreaking event – in every sense.”

“ACES is an incredible partner in the education community, providing important academic opportunity and services to Arizona students,” said State Representative, Dr. Heather Carter. “Every day, ACES helps individual students achieve personal successes that over time, transform the lives of children. I know this new facility will be a tremendous asset to Arizona students and families.”

The ACES has served about 15,000 students during its 20-year history. After attending The ACES, approximately 90 percent of students are able to successfully attend a public school and do not need to return to the specialized school.

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