4-day traditional student academic calendar proposed for 2018-19 in Apache Junction

[Video: A committee of parents, community members and Apache Junction Unified School District staff and administrators held six meetings since September to, in part, compare traditional and modified four-day and five-day schedules. Above, Rachel Mangum, Cactus Canyon Junior High School teacher and parent, at the Dec. 12 AJUSD Governing Board meeting describes what the group was tasked to do. (Video by Richard H. Dyer, Independent Newspapers)]

A four-day traditional student academic calendar has been proposed for the Apache Junction Unified School District for the 2018-19 school year, similar to what is in place today.

If approved by the AJUSD Governing Board, new for the next year would be six full-day Friday professional development days embedded in teachers’ contracts plus two before school; only three are now offered.

Also, parent-teacher conferences, which are now only offered at the elementary schools, will be provided at the junior high and high schools, according to members of the AJUSD Calendar Advisory Committee who gave a presentation at the Dec. 12 AJUSD Governing Board meeting. The committee of parents, community members and AJUSD staff and administrators held six meetings since September to, in part, compare traditional and modified four-day and five-day schedules.

“Professional development that was embedded in the teacher contract was really important for us to consider,” Jason Digos, a committee member and parent of AJUSD students, said. “It was one of the things that (AJUSD Superintendent) Dr. (Krista) Anderson had wanted us to work on putting that into the calendar,” he said.

“One of the things from a lot of the parents is, in elementary school, there’s a lot of communication between the teacher and the parent and sometimes that gets lost as the kids get older, so we felt that we wanted to try and put some of that time back in for the older kids and have an opportunity for the parents to stay engaged with the high school teachers and the middle school teachers,” he said.

Another focus of the committee was that school starts too early for students.

“One of the biggest concerns that kept coming up everywhere among the people on the committee and the surveys is about the school start times… and the end times, for that matter,” Rachel Mangum, committee member, Cactus Canyon Junior High School teacher and parent, said. “At the high school and junior high we start very early. It’s very dark. It’s cold… this time of year… This was a very big concern that we don’t start before 7:15 and that when that does happen, that we don’t have our elementaries ending after 4 p.m.,” she said.

Presently elementary school students start at 8:30 a.m. and that could be changed for 2018-19. Junior high and high school students presently start at 6:50 a.m. and it could change to 7:15 a.m. to 7:30 a.m.

The committee looked at data provided by AJUSD and also answers to surveys sent to former AJUSD families who left the district between May 2015 and November (124 responses from 600 e-mails sent out), current AJUSD families (930 responses) and AJUSD staff (346 responses).

One of the questions for former families was “Please identify the No. 1 reason you withdrew your child/children from AJUSD” with answers such as:

  • Student academic calendar changed to a four-day school week.
  • District lacked the diverse programming (e.g., AP course, fine arts options, others) for my child.
  • Athletic programming.
  • District did not challenge my child academically.
  • District was not responsive to my child’s needs.
  • My child was not on track to graduate in four years.
  • Class sizes.
  • Purchased a new home outside of the AJUSD boundary.
  • Family reasons.

“They answered that question and then they had to answer if there was another factor after that,” Nichole Smith, committee member and Apache Junction High School teacher and parent, said. “On the first question, the No. 1 factor was the academic calendar, but it wasn’t a majority – it only goes to about 30 percent… There’s a big chunk for ‘family reasons,’ then ‘the district wasn’t responsive.”

Board member Cami Garcia asked if an individual could take the survey multiple times. Dr. Anderson said yes, if on multiple devices.

The Calendar Advisory Committee Presentation survey results can be seen https://az01901895.schoolwires.net/Page/11997.

The AJUSD Governing Board could vote on the 2018-19 student academic calendar in January, Sally Marks, AJUSD public relations officer, said after the meeting. The governing board generally meets at 6 p.m. the second and fourth Tuesdays in the board room at 1575 W. Southern Ave.

The Apache Junction Unified School District serves more than 4,500 students in a 217-square mile area that includes the city of Apache Junction, Gold Canyon, Peralta Trail, Queen Valley and the unincorporated areas of the Superstition Mountain foothills. Formed in 1952, the K-12 district provides a quality education to its students and is proud of the variety of educational programs offered. For more information, call 480-982-1110, visit www.ajusd.org, or www.facebook.com/ajusd43.

Editor Richard Dyer can be reached at rdyer@newszap.com

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