August means back to school for students in the Apache Junction Unified School District but this year many were not returning to their old classrooms. Superstition Mountain Elementary, 550 S. Ironwood Drive, closed at the end of last year due to the failure of a budget override. The students who attended SMES are now spread among the remaining elementary schools. Most children were sent to Desert Vista and Four Peaks elementary schools.
Dixie Carter’s children — Josh Carter, 10, and Laci Moore, 9 — attended the Superstition Mountain Elementary last year. This year they are attending Desert Vista Elementary, 3701 E. Broadway Ave. in Apache Junction.
“It’s different, all different rules, all different area,” Ms. Carter said. “This place is a lot different than SMES, so that was a major adjustment yesterday, just trying to find the classrooms.”
Ms. Carter said she received a packet on the first day of school with a section on bringing weapons to school.
“We didn’t ever have to sign a paper about any of that stuff at SMES,” Ms. Carter said. “We didn’t have to worry about it. Everybody knew everybody.”
Ms. Carter noticed it seemed like there were many more students at Desert Vista than at SMES.
“The bus yesterday, watching the kids get out, I have never seen so many kids get off a bus before,” Ms. Carter said.
But the closing of SMES is not the only change that families will have to face this school year. AJUSD has a four-day work week. Students attend class Monday through Thursday. Those days were made longer, to compensate for the loss of Friday. Also most early release days were eliminated.
“I’m not looking forward to it, because during the week is usually when I get my stuff done, and it’s a lot easier when you don’t have your four kids with you,” Ms. Carter said. “But it will be nice when I have to make doctor appointments, dentist appointments to not have to pull them out of school. It’ll kind of wash.”
Ms. Carter said with giving kids the Fridays off, there will be a lot of kids who are going to be left home alone.
“I think that those cops are going to have to be out a lot more because we’re going to have a lot of kids getting in trouble because they are bored and there’s no supervision,” Ms. Carter said.
Josh, however, is looking forward to the four day week because on Friday, he plans to spend the day in the pool. Even in the winter.
“I think (the four-day week) it’s really cool,” Josh said.
Arizona is an open enrollment state, which means most districts will allow a parent to enroll their child even if they do not live within the boundaries according to Arizona Revised Statute 15-816.01. That would give parents the opportunity to enroll their children in a neighboring district.
“If I felt it was not working out, then I might consider it. As of right now I’m really impressed with the AJ district,” Ms. Carter said. “My kids loved SMES and were really sad their school was closing.”
Ms. Carter said a lot of the kids and teachers from last year at SMES were now at Desert Vista, so it made the transition a lot easier.
Darla Moreno, who attended SMES last year but is this year attending Four Peaks Elementary School, 1785 N. Idaho Road in Apache Junction, said the transition has been good for her.
“It’s been kind of great,” Darla said. “I have made some friends already.”
Darla said she is looking forward to the a new school and meet more friends.
Victor Moreno, Darla’s father, said the change has been a little tougher on his family than he expected.
“It’s a little farther than we anticipated it to be,” Mr. Moreno said. “From my perspective as a parent that school (SMES) was just down the street from my house and this school is just a little farther out of our way.”
Mr. Moreno is also not happy with the four-day week. Mr. Moreno said that has considered doing open enrollment and he is looking at that as an option.
“I’m not really too fond about that,” Mr. Moreno said. “I feel that four days are not enough for a kid to learn, that extra day helps out a lot.”
Mr. Moreno said that on Fridays, Darla will stay at home with his wife.
“If she’s not going to school we’re going to have her reading or doing other things that she would be doing in school,” Mr. Moreno said. “I don’t want her at home Friday, Saturday and Sunday not doing anything.”
But it’s not just the elementary school students who are having to make adjustments to the new schedule.
Jocelyn Ochoa is a seventh-grader at Cactus Canyon Junior High School, 801 W. Southern Ave. in Apache Junction, and said that she likes the four day weeks because on Thursdays after school she heads to her dad’s house in Anthem.
“I’m going to be hanging out with my dad because my parents are divorced, I spend the week with my mom then go to his house,” Jocelyn said “So I have more time with my dad.”
Michael Jada, is an eighth-grader at Cactus Canyon.
“I don’t really like it because you can’t really learn as much,” Michael said. “By the end of the day, your brain is dead and you can’t really take in anything.”
Michael said that with the extended hours, teachers now finish the lessons early if they are a good class.
“I wish we had five-day school weeks,” Michael said.
News Services Assistant Arianna Grainey can be reached at 623-445-2717, via e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org or on twitter at