Ironwood Ridge High School

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Ironwood Ridge High School
Ironwood Ridge HS logo.png
2475 West Naranja Drive
Oro Valley, Arizona 85742
United States
Coordinates 32°24′34″N 111°1′15″W / 32.40944°N 111.02083°W / 32.40944; -111.02083Coordinates: 32°24′34″N 111°1′15″W / 32.40944°N 111.02083°W / 32.40944; -111.02083
Type Public secondary (US)
Established 2001
School district Amphitheater Public Schools
Principal Natalie Burnett
Grades 9–12
Enrollment 2,025 (October 1, 2012)
Campus Suburban, 88.76 acres (35.92 ha)
Color(s) Navy blue and silver         
Nickname Nighthawks
Newspaper The Iron Quill

Ironwood Ridge High School is a public high school, located in Oro Valley, Arizona. Ironwood Ridge is one of three high schools in the Amphitheater Public School District and serves grades 9-12. The school mascot is the nighthawk, and the school colors are navy blue and silver. Ironwood Ridge opened in 2001 and has a student enrollment of 1,942. The school's name originates from the abundance of desert ironwood trees in the area (the campus is also near Ironwood Forest National Monument) and the school's location in the rugged foothills of the Tortolita Mountains.

In 2007, Newsweek magazine rated Ironwood Ridge in the top 5% of public schools in the US, one of 12 Arizona schools included on the list.[2] The school's primary and district rival is Canyon del Oro High School,[3] also located in Oro Valley. The school's other rivals are Marana's Mountain View High School and Cienega High School, located southeast of Tucson in Vail.[citation needed]


Population growth in Tucson's northwest suburbs[edit]

The history of Ironwood Ridge includes substantial controversy and a federal court decision from the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals in 2000 from Republican John Pae. The Amphi School District's first high school (Amphitheater) was built in 1939, followed by Canyon del Oro High School in 1962. The school board began searching for a third high school site in the late 1970s when it became apparent that significant development would occur on the northwest side of Tucson. Tentative deals were negotiated with developers, but by the late 1980s, all of the deals were unsuccessful, and the school district lacked a viable site for a future high school.[4]

By 1993, overcrowding existed at a growing number of district schools, at all grade levels, in part due to the growth on the northwest side. At the time, the most critical crowding was in the elementary school grade levels. The school board noted that the overcrowding problem would eventually affect the district's high schools by the late 1990s. In 1993, the school board systematically searched for school sites on the Northwest Side where the majority of growth in the district was occurring. By early 1994, potential sites were narrowed down, and in April 1994, the school board purchased two sites adjacent to one another on the southeast corner of West Naranja Drive and North Shannon Road, at that time west of Oro Valley.[4]

The impact of the cactus ferruginous pygmy owl[edit]

By 1994, the cactus ferruginous pygmy owl had been identified as a "species of special concern" by the US Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS). A FWS report on the owl was published in 1994 with a map depicting the areas believed to be prime potential habitats for the owl. The two school sites were not identified as being located in those areas. The school district planned to break ground in October 1997, with the high school opening by August 1999.[4]

In spring 1997, all the plans and blueprints for the school were completed, and the district had obtained all the required permits for construction, with the exception of one. The school site had a significant wash running through it, and the Army Corps of Engineers contended that building on such a wash constituted modifying a navigable waterway and required a 404 permit.[4]

As the school district applied for the permit, the cactus ferruginous pygmy owl was listed as an endangered species under the Endangered Species Act (ESA) by the FWS in 1997. Within an area in Arizona designated by the FWS as critical habitat of the pygmy owl included the 90 acres (36 ha) owned by the school district. 60 acres (24 ha) were earmarked for construction of the high school, with the remaining 30 acres (12 ha) to remain undeveloped.[5]

At the request of the school board, the Arizona Game and Fish Department conducted six surveys on the site and did not find ferruginous pygmy owls on the property or on the adjacent land where the owls last were sighted in early 1996. The school board then began a process with the FWS to mitigate disturbance of the potential owl habitat on the site. Negotiations with the FWS were ultimately unsuccessful, and the school district proceeded with developing the school site.[4]

Federal lawsuit[edit]

When the school district began construction operations on the 60-acre (24 ha) parcel, Defenders of Wildlife (Defenders), an environmental group, brought an action for injunctive relief under Section 9 of the ESA (applicable to private parties) in the US District Court of Arizona, alleging that the proposed school construction was likely to harm or harass pygmy owls that used or inhabited the site. Defenders obtained a temporary restraining order (TRO) to halt the construction.[5]

The Arizona District Court found that no pygmy owl had been detected anywhere within the school site, and that the evidence was insufficient to show that a pygmy owl had used any portion of the 60-acre (24 ha) parcel. The court also concluded that while the evidence supported an inference that a pygmy owl used the 30-acre (12 ha) parcel, the allegation that the construction would harm the owl lacked such support, and was weakened by inconsistent facts. As to harassment of the pygmy owl, the court determined that the evidence did not show that the bird's behavioral patterns would be adversely affected by construction of the school. In the court's view, only speculation supporting the assertion that human activity associated with the school would harass the owl.[5]

Defenders of Wildlife appealed the District Court decision, and the case proceeded to the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals. The court held that the school district could not be prevented from building a school on the site. The court asserted that critical habitat designation played no role in the case. At the time of appeal, FWS had not yet made a critical habitat designation for the pygmy owl. The Ninth Circuit found that the insufficiency of Defenders' evidence was the main issue, and any critical habitat designation would not have altered the outcome of the case.[6]

Establishment of IRHS[edit]

The school district finally began construction of the high school following the decision in early 2000, and Ironwood Ridge opened for students in fall 2001, eliminating the overcrowding issue at Canyon del Oro High School.

Feeder schools[edit]

Ironwood Ridge is fed by Richard B. Wilson K-8 School and Coronado K-8 School.


Ironwood's major rivals include the nearby Canyon del Oro High School and Cienega High School from Vail.[7]


The Ironwood Ridge wrestling team has had a large amount of success since the 2007-2008 season. They finished 3rd in the team and individual state tournaments in 2008 with one individual state champion, two state finalists and seven state placers. The following season (2009), the Nighthawk wrestling team finished 3rd in the individual state championship and had a State Runner-up finish in the team dual state championship, finishing with 2 state champions, three state finalists and eight state placers. The 2010 team finished with 4 state champions, five state finalists, and nine state placers. The win earned the Nighthawks the number one seed in the team tournament. They ended their season with a runner-up finish in the team championship. The Nighthawks finished with three state champions and five state finalists. The Nighthawks returned three state champions for their 2011-2012 campaign. The 2011-2012 season was capped off by the Nighthawks winning the prestigious Flowing Wells Invitational, Division II Section II championship and their second consecutive Division II State Championship. The Nighthawks scored over 300 points in their sectional tournament and qualified all 13 wrestlers for the state championship. Ironwood Ridge scored 204.5 points and won the 2012 state title over Gila Ridge high school of Yuma, who scored 155 points. The Nighthawks once again managed to get five wrestlers into the state championship finals, but also had five other state placers. Ironwood Ridge finished with three state champions, two runner-ups, four 5th-place finishers, and one 6th-place finisher. Ironwood Ridge will once again return three state champions, but this time they are accompanied by five other state medal winners for the 2012-13 season. Since the 2007-2008 wrestling season no Division II Arizona team has had more state champions (13), state finalists (20), state placers (39), or National All-Americans (6).[citation needed]

In 2006 the Ironwood Ridge football team won a share of the Sonoran Region championship and the Amphitheater District Championship.[citation needed] The school currently competes in the 5A Division II athletic conference. The Ironwood Ridge football team has also made the 4A playoffs four years in a row, and recorded their first playoff win in 2006 against Canyon del Oro. They are now competing in 5A, and will go back to 4A in two years. In 2007, Ironwood Ridge won the 5A-II Southern title in their first year in the division.

The Ironwood Ridge men's basketball team has also experienced recent success. The Nighthawks reached the 2007 Arizona 4A Division I state title game, where Ironwood Ridge was beaten by Apollo High School 61-48. The basketball team started off the 2007-2008 season being ranked as the #1 team in the state. The point guard, Lawrence Hampton (sophomore), and shooting guard Calvin Barbera helped them remain one of the top ranked teams. The team won the 2008 state championship beating Marcos De Niza 61-51.

On November 3, 2007 the girls' cross country team took the 5A-II state title, the first team state title in the short history of Ironwood Ridge. They repeated by winning the state titles in 2008 and 2009.

In 2010, the girls' track team won the state title.

The Ironwood Ridge men's golf team won the 2008 5A-II state championship (led by Coach Ryan Bais), shooting 589, winning by 18 shots. Ironwood Ridge golf has won 4 region championships as well.

The Ironwood Ridge men's tennis team has also experienced much success by being the 4A-1 State Runners-Up in 2007. The tennis program also won the 5A-II State Championship in 2008 and defended their title by winning again in 2009 by going 19-0. They again reached the finals in 2010, but came up short being the 5A-II State Runners-Up. They returned to the top in 2012 to win the schools 3rd state championship in Division II. The tennis program has won six straight region championships.

Ironwood Ridge is the only US high school that offers Taekwondo for credit.[citation needed]

Ironwood Ridge has also started its first ever men's water polo team.[citation needed]

Fine arts[edit]

Choral program[edit]

Ironwood Ridge is home to two classically based choirs (The Night Hawk Singers and Touch of Class Concert Choir), two show choirs (Glitz! All Girls Show Choir and Encore! Show Choir), and a new faculty choir added last year. Every year, students participate in regional, state, and national competitions.

Nighthawk Vanguard[edit]

The Nighthawk Vanguard is the official marching band of Ironwood Ridge High School. The band performs at all home varsity football games and various away football games, as well as participating in various regional invitationals and the Arizona State Marching Festival, hosted by ABODA. The Nighthawk Vanguard has participated in various national events, including the Blue Diamond Walnut Bowl in San Francisco, California, and the Holiday Bowl parade, both nationally televised on ESPN. The Nighthawk Vanguard also hosts the March the Ridge festival. They received a Superior with Distinction ranking at State marching band competitions in 2005 and 2006.

At the end of the 2007 season, the Nighthawk Vanguard attended the 2008 Gator Bowl in Jacksonville, Florida. They received second place in the field show and third place in the parade.

At the end of the 2009 season, the Nighthawk Vanguard attended the 2009 Holiday Bowl in San Diego, California where they performed their marching show "Gangsta Jazz" during pre-game.

It was announced in May 2011 that in the Fall the Nighthawk Vanguard would be traveling to the White House in Washington, DC.[8]

March the Ridge[edit]

March the Ridge is an annual competitive marching band event hosted by the Nighthawk Vanguard.

In 2006, March the Ridge hosted 11 bands including Cienega High School, Amphitheater High School, and Canyon del Oro High School. Ironwood Ridge received a rating of Superior in 2006.

March the Ridge's reputation has grown since 2006. In 2011, March the Ridge hosted triple that of 2006, being one of the most attended marching invitationals in the state. [9]

Winter drumline[edit]

IRHS also sponsors an annual winter drumline, which participates in competitions sanctioned by Winter Guard AriZona, a sister organization of Winter Guard International.

Notable alumni[edit]


External links[edit]