Construction of a new community school in Blackwater for the Indian community of Gila River, Arizona


Construction on the new Blackwater Community School, a two-story structure on the Gila River Indian community, located southeast of Phoenix, Arizona, was completed on August 31. school.

The two-year construction on the 7.43-acre campus was in conjunction with Rosendin, the largest company of employee-owned electrical contractors, as well as Gilbane Construction Company and design partner Breckenridge Group.

The new science class includes laboratory stations. Photo: Courtesy of Rosendin

The $ 25 million replacement campus incorporates culturally significant artwork in the two-story classroom building, media center, multi-purpose building and cafeteria. The Blackwater Community School Culture Committee provided an overview of cultural art in partnership and with the approval of the Blackwater Community School Board. Rosendin’s team worked on lighting, playgrounds, basketball courts, sports fields and reading terraces.

The Blackwater Community School serves two distinct tribes: the Akimel O’Otham, who can trace their ancestors back to the Hohokam; and the Pee Posh, who come from Yuma ancestry.

Exterior of Blackwater Community School.
Blackwater Community School welcomes children and families of the Akimel O’Otham and Pee Posh peoples. Photo: Courtesy of Rosendin

“The Blackwater Community School is the heart of the community and celebrates the heritage of the Gila River Indian community throughout the year,” said Jagdish (Jack) Sharma, Principal of the Blackwater Community School. “Agriculture is at the heart of Akimel O’Otham culture. Our educators take pride in our quality educational practices and the presence of traditions. This is the reason why traditional symbols of culture are placed throughout the new campus.

The outer wall represents the harvest of crops, the desert landscapes, and the petroglyphic symbol of man in the labyrinth, or Se: he.
The exterior wall of the Blackwater Community School depicts the harvest of crops, desert landscapes and the petroglyphic symbol The Man in the Maze, or Se: he. Photo: Courtesy of Rosendin

The Hohokam contributed to the early forms of technology in the southwest with the introduction of agriculture, irrigation canals and extensive trading networks. Exterior and interior murals throughout campus illustrate these contributions with harvest scenes, desert landscapes, and petroglyphic symbols like the Man in the Labyrinth or Se: he. A shade structure was constructed from metal fashioned to resemble cactus ribs, a material Akimel O’Otham would use to build ramadas of common gathering space.

“There is a blue and pink mural in one of the hallways depicting the desert at night,” said Sharma, addressing the Blackwater Community School Culture Committee’s interpretation of the work. “The name of Blackwater comes from the stagnant water which darkens with the night. In the moonlight, fishes appeared. In the moon there are two pipers, a reference to ‘Man of the Maze There are murals like this one all over campus that reflect the culture of our students enriching their overall learning experience, ”

New classroom with plexiglass dividers to protect students and teachers from the Covid virus.
New classroom with plexiglass dividers to protect students and teachers from Covid. Photo: Courtesy of Rosendin

The school was originally built in 1939 and in 2018, received by other different funding sources and the Gila River Community Council, Bureau of Indian Affairs (BIA), funds for a replacement school.

“Rosendin is proud to have built the new elementary school in the Indian community of Gila River to provide students with the best environment to learn and grow,” said Ben Miller, Rosendin Division Director. “The school will serve as a hub for the community as a whole and support family education and culture in the region. “

The two-year campus construction required an aggressive phasing schedule to implement construction while the school was in session. Parts of the project were scheduled during winter and summer vacation to alleviate disruption to students.

“The Blackwater Community School will serve as a vital gathering and education place for children and adults in the Gila River Indian community,” said Jeff Keck, Senior Project Manager, Gilbane Building Company. Gilbane is proud to work with Rosendin and other business partners to have safely built a new campus to support the families, cultures and traditions of this community, ”


Rosendin, headquartered in San Jose, California, is the largest employee-owned electrical contractor in the United States, employing more than 7,000 people and having revenues of $ 2 billion. Founded in 1919, Rosendin has been built for more than a century of quality electrical and communication installations. More information at:


Gilbane provides a full range of construction and facilities related services – from pre-construction planning and integrated consulting capabilities to comprehensive construction management, general contractor, design-build and construction management services. facilities. Founded in 1870 and still a private family business, Gilbane has more than 45 offices around the world. More information at:


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