Preliminary report due on schools’ K-8 overhaul

By Don Kirkland

Forums at three Kyrene Corridor schools may give parents their last opportunity to react to proposed changes in future K-8 programming before a series of potentially far-reaching recommendations begin reaching decision makers later this month.

The forums, scheduled from 6:30 to 8 p.m. Monday, Feb. 7, at Aprende, Pueblo and Kyrene middle schools, are designed to provide a progress report on a massive study involving what district officials describe as “every single instructional program Kyrene offers.”

The study, launched last November, is expected to continue over three years, with implementation of any resulting recommendations occurring at stages along the way.

“Everything is not going to happen at once, but there probably will be some initial recommendations coming forward sometime in February,” said Johnny Cruz, the district’s communications manager.

Recommendations would go first to district administrators, then to the school board for action.

Ever since the study got under way, says Cruz, interest in the outcome has been high.

“”It’s definitely a reality that people are taking significant interest in what items are being discussed. For that reason, the forums will provide a good environment to get a little more depth and detail, and have some group interaction with people involved in the process.”

Although Cruz said the study group has made some preliminary judgments about possible recommendations, which may be reflected in the February report, no final decisions have been made.

“At this point there are many issues that are not yet at the point of consensus, but there still is plenty of time,” he said. “The forums are happening before any recommendations are made and we can get feedback. People will have an opportunity to get a much more thorough understanding of the process and status (of the study), and have a chance to ask questions and engage in more of an interactive dialog.”

Issues that so far have commanded the greatest interest, says Cruz, include the status of such elective programs as art, music and physical education, and how much time should be devoted to each.

As to agreement on possible recommendations, Cruz says it is too early to expect consensus.

“Some people are going to feel stronger about some things than others.” That is why, he says, public input at this stage can be a valuable tool.

Although Kyrene was seen as a highly progressive district in the 1980s and ‘90s, budget cuts and declining enrollment during the past few years have forced the district to reexamine how its money is allocated in the classroom.

“We really would prefer to be in a (financial) situation where we wouldn’t have to make these difficult decisions,” Cruz said.

“These decisions represent challenges because there are strong feelings involved; sometimes (the decisions we make) are not going to be very comfortable.”

When the study group has completed its work, says Cruz, hopes remain any negative impact on students can be kept to a minimum.

“The whole purpose (of the study) is to produce higher levels of student achievement and learning, and to do so in a fiscally responsible manner,” he said.

Although there appear to have been no major initiatives critical of the study so far, Cruz says reaction has been mixed.

“Some are very optimistic, some are concerned about what directions might be taken. That’s to be expected whenever change is being discussed.”

For community members interested in how the study is proceeding, Cruz says he highly recommends visiting the district’s website at www.kyrene.org/ksdportal and clicking on the “learn more” link regarding the community forums. And, of course, attending one of the Feb. 7 forums.