Groundwork Set for Recouping Lost School Days

Policy revisions made to facilitate make-up days; 2018-19 bell schedule approved

By Dana Trumbull

In an emergency meeting held on Thursday, May 3, 2018, the Apache Junction Unified School District Governing Board addressed two major issues arising from the five-day #RedForEd educator walk-out: approving a policy allowing the district to schedule instructional hours to compensate for school closures and striking an obsolete policy banning any kind of “work stoppage.”

Acknowledging that many families already have planned vacations for the Memorial Day weekend and beyond, Superintendent Dr. Krista Anderson has proposed to schedule make-up days for the mandatory instructional hours lost during recent school closures on Friday, May 11 & 18 and Thursday/Friday, May 24 and 25.

Before the Board can vote to approve the schedule revision, however, some procedural housework was required, authorizing Board members, on the superintendent’s recommendation, to make such changes. That policy was approved 4-0 at the May 3 emergency session. Board Member Cami Garcia was absent.

The approved “Board Policy ID, School Day,” states, in part, “The superintendent may close the schools, delay the opening of schools or dismiss school early for emergency reasons and, to protect the health and safety of students and staff members, shall prepare rules for the proper and timely notification of concerned persons in the event of such emergency closing…”

The calendar revision will be presented to the Board for formal approval on Tuesday, May 8, during regular session. School hours are anticipated to be as usual. High school graduation ceremonies, set for May 23, 2018, will not change.

The second item on the May 3 agenda was to remove “Board Policy HP, Employee Job Actions,” which read: “The Board subscribes to the principle that differences shall be resolved by peaceful and appropriate means without interruption of the District programs. Any work stoppage, slowdown, etc., shall be considered an illegal act or unprofessional conduct and could lead to employee termination.”

At the First Read of the policy change, conducted April 24, during the Governing Board regular session, Assistant Superintendent and Director of Human Resources Dr. Jennifer Cruz stated, “We are recommending that this policy be struck from the Governing Board policies. We are one of maybe five districts across the state that adopted this Board policy many, many years ago and did not strike it many, many years ago when most of the state did.”

The Board voted 4-0 at the May 3, 2018, meeting to delete the policy.

The two items come on the heels of a unanimous Board decision on April 10 to approve a resolution supporting educators and #RedForEd.

AJUSD teachers and many among support staff, parents and community played active and persistent roles in the state-wide walk-out, peacefully demonstrating in the observation galleries of the House of Representatives and Senate and on the capitol lawns, along with tens of thousands of teachers from all over Arizona. The vigil continued overnight Wednesday and into the early hours of Thursday, May 3, with educators keeping a close watch on the activities of the legislators until the budget was passed and signed by Governor Ducey.

Although the grass roots effort of Arizona Educators United, joined by the Arizona Education Association union did not achieve all of its stated goals, they did see a 9% boost to teacher pay, with an increase to 19% over three years. Roughly $644 million in new funding was included in the education budget, including $273 million in fiscal year 2019. Additionally, the plan provides $100 million to restore previous cuts to public schools. The group plans to stay active in hopes of electing education-friendly representatives in November.

Bell Schedule Approved

After three attempts, the AJUSD Governing Board approved the 2018-19 Bell Schedule on April 24. The challenge has been meeting the demand for later start times at the high school and junior high levels, while implementing earlier start and end times at Four Peaks Elementary, which has historically been the last in and last out each school day.

“We cannot change the time between these [bus] stops, because that’s the amount of time it takes between these stops,” Anderson reiterated. Staff, however, presented an option that shaved ten minutes off the daily instructional hours for all schools, allowing Four Peaks to release at 3:45 p.m. instead of 4:15, as originally projected.

2018-19 Bell Times will be: AJHS and CCJH – 7:15 a.m.-2:00 p.m.; DVES – 8:25 a.m. – 3:00 p.m.; PTES – 8:30 a.m.-3:05 p.m.; and FPES – 9:10 a.m.-3:45 p.m.

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