Tempe announces day care solutions to #RedforEd school closures

Local teachers rallying in front of Kyrene district elementary school headquarters.

UPDATE April 25, 10:30 a.m.

The city of Tempe announced on its website, Tempe.gov, that it is “working diligently to provide options for parents during this week’s walkout.”

Kid Zone will offer a day camps from 6:30 a.m. to 6 p.m. at Broadmor, Rover and Fuller elementary schools on a first- come, first served basis. Breakfast and lunch will be provided by the district.

Kid Zone will offer a day camp on both days from 6:30 a.m. to 6 p.m. at Waggoner Elementary on a first come, first served basis.

Due to state licensing requirements, the number of students at each Kid Zone camp is limited to 200. Children must bring their own lunch; morning and afternoon snacks will be provided.

Registration is underway now and will go until 5 p.m. April 25). The cost of the camp is $25 per day and tuition assistance is available to income eligible families. Kid Zone participants can register using their existing accounts at www.kidzonelogin.com.

Students not currently enrolled in Kid Zone will need to register in person at the Edna Vihel Arts Center, 3340 S. Rural Rd. The center is open from 8:30 a.m. to 5 p.m. Go to the Kid Zone office just off the main lobby.

The North Tempe Multi-Generational Center will be open from 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. for drop-in programming on Thursday, April 26 and Friday, April 27. Info: 480-858-6500.

The Boys & Girls Club will offer its day camp to the public for $20 a day at the Westside Multi-Generational Center, 715 W. 5th St., Tempe. Camp hours are 7 a.m.- 6 p.m. Parents can register in person anytime during operating hours. Info: 480-858-2400

UPDATE April 24, 4:20 p.m.

In an online message to parents and guardians, Christine Busch, superintendent of the Tempe Elementary School District, wrote that all schools in the district will be closed until further notice beginning Thursday, April 26, due to the teacher walkout. Similar to the Kyrene and TUHSD, the decision was made based on concerns for student safety due to limited staff.

Busch wrote that originally the schools were going to remain open “based on what we felt was best for the safety and well-being of our students. Our decision to say open in no way reflected a lack of support, love, care or concern for our staff.”

She also noted that 70 percent of students in the district qualify for free and reduced lunch, “many of whom only eat when they have two meals at school each day and their weekend backpack food to sustain them.”

Many other students, Busch wrote, have nowhere else to go while parents work.

“We have worked tirelessly for the past 10 years to ensure that our teachers have everything they need to be successful, including giving them as much money as the legislature has ever given us. Unfortunately, it has never been enough,” the letter reads.

Dr. Jan Vesely, Superintendent of Kyrene, told parents that schools in the district would be closed both Thursday, April 26, and Friday, April 27.

“We will continue to communicate through official Kyrene communication channels. Families are encouraged to make sure that phone numbers and email addresses are current in our student information system, and subscribe to the District e-News,” Vesely wrote.

A list of frequently asked questions was also posted on the district’s website, kyrene.org. 

UPDATE, April 23, 2:15 p.m.

In an email message today to parents, Dr. Kenneth Baca, superintendent of Tempe Union High School District, said that all seven TUHSD schools will be closed on Thursday, April 26 and Friday, April 27, due to the Red for Ed teacher walkout.

“This decision was made based on the number of staff, both classroom teachers and support staff, who will not be in attendance on those two days. With limited staff, I cannot guarantee a quality educational experience along with ensuring the safety and well-being of students and employees,” Baca wrote in the email.

UPDATE, April 23 12:40 p.m.

In a message over the weekend to parents of students in Kyrene schools, Dr. Jan Vesely, Kyrene superintendent, let them know that school would not be in session Thursday, April 26, the day of the Red for Ed walkout.

“Based on what we know today and in collaboration with school leaders, we are planning to close schools district-wide on Thursday, April 26. The safety of our students is our highest priority. As we cannot guarantee that we will have adequate supervision to keep our students safe, we want families to have time to plan accordingly. If the statewide direction changes, we will inform you immediately.

 “We recognize that as we navigate this never-before-experienced situation, families are anxious and have questions. We greatly appreciate your patience as we work to provide you the most up-to-date information. We are working on finalizing a district plan to include a list of answers to address questions you may have,” the email from Vesely read.

A rally at Kyrene School District headquarters drew hundreds. (Wrangler News photo by Joyce Coronel)

UPDATE; story is developing

Within minutes after it was learned Thursday night that voters in the #RedForEd campaign had approved a walkout, Dr. Jan Vesely, superintendent of the Kyrene School District, emailed a message to district parents assuring them that all Kyrene schools would be open on Friday, April 20, and that district administrators would continue providing updates as the situation unfolds.

“There is no change in our schedule for the time being,” she said in her memo. “The teacher leaders in our district have committed to providing notice of a walk-out to ensure the safety and security of our students. We will continue (to provide information to) families daily to give as much information as possible on the issue of potential school closures. Information will be kept up-to-date on the districthomepage and on each school’s website. There are a lot of questions being asked by parents, teachers, staff and students and I want you to know that we are going to do everything we can to minimize any negative effect a walk-out might have on your child or in the classroom. We will continue to communicate via email, phone messages, website and social media. We appreciate your continued patience and partnership.

Dr. Kenneth Baca, superintendent of the Tempe Union High School District, sent an email to the parents and guardians of district students the night the vote was final. The email stated in part:

“There are a lot of unknowns and I want to assure you that we are going to do everything we can to minimize the negative effect a work stoppage might have on your child. We are committed to ensuring seniors are able to graduate. We will continue to communicate via email, phone messages, our website and social media and appreciate your patience and partnership as we face this historic event.”

Teachers gather in near the entrance to the Kyrene School District offices in South Tempe. (Wrangler News photo by Joyce Coronel)

s Wrangler News went to press, the final results of voting on a possible teacher walk out remained up in the air. Some of those interviewed—who did not wish to reveal their identities—said they opposed it because of the negative impact on students; others said they voted in favor of the walkout because they felt the earlier announcement by Gov. Ducey’s office of a 20 percent pay increase was no more than a strategic political move in an election year.

Just hours before Ducey’s pledge, emotions were running high among educators and their supporters. Carrying posters, chanting slogans and decked out in bright-red T-shirts, hundreds jammed the Kyrene district’s office parking lot in a scene mirrored in more than 1,000 rallies across Arizona on a hot April afternoon. The Red for Ed movement caught fire and quickly ignited a blaze that many say ultimately pushed Ducey to agree to a salary boost for teachers.

Megan Noppeneerg, who teaches fifth grade at Kyrene de las Brisas, is one of them. “I’m here to provide exposure for the public so that they can get on board with us,” Noppeneerg said. “We are out there working for equality within and among teachers. Give us more pay, more money per student and funding so we can get more aides, more supplies and all of the different things necessary in order to help achievement and our students and our districts being successful.”

Noppeneerg said she has a master’s degree and has been teaching for 13 years during which she has hardly received any pay increases. There were pay freezes during about 10 of those years, she explained. “They have given us some raises but it’s still not where anything should be to be competitive, especially for single families out there.” She said she didn’t get into teaching for the money but “it still needs to be somewhat of a livable wage and it is not by any standards.”

As the crowd mushroomed on the lawn outside Kyrene district headquarters in South Tempe, passing motorists honked their horns in support. Chants of “Our movement united will never be divided!” and “We are 50! Make us number one!” echoed through the throng, with many participants clutching handmade signs that bore slogans such as “My second job paid for this sign.”

Educators and their supporters rally outside Corona del Sol High School. (Photo by Alexis Crane, CDS yearbook)

Sharon Johnson, president of the Kyrene Education Association, is a first grade dual-language teacher at Kyrene de los Lagos. Holding a bull horn, she addressed the crowd.

“We have all come together for one purpose: better funding for public education. We deserve more,” Johnson said.

“We will stand together until the state makes needed changes. There is nothing like the passion of an educator and I say that over and over again. This is the proof—all of you being here. It’s more than just wearing red. It’s more than just holding signs. It is what we do, all of us, every day in our classrooms.”

The crowd cheered throughout Johnson’s speech that hammered home the Red for Ed’s basic messaging, that funding for schools is a billion dollars below what it was in 2008.

“Our state has to do better,” Johnson said. “We want increased teacher and support staff compensation. We want lower class sizes. We want better resources for our classrooms and we can’t do that without the funding that we need from the state.”

Scott Wilson, a kindergarten teacher at Kyrene de las Lomas, said the schools aren’t getting enough money. “I’m here for our kids. We want funding for our students,” Wilson said. “Yes, we want pay increases, but the main thing is, we need somebody to back us, to help fund our schools.”

At Ducey’s press conference the day following the colorful, noisy rallies, he pledged to increase teachers’ pay by 20 percent by 2020. That’s a sharp divergence from his earlier proposal to boost them by just one percent.

A statement from the Arizona Educators United and Arizona Education Association didn’t exactly gush praise for the governor’s move. Ducey’s action, the group said, “leaves many unanswered questions” and does not address the needs of employees outside the classroom such as counselors, librarians, coaches, bus drivers and custodians.

“The governor’s proposal provides no details about where the money is coming from. Will it sweep funds from other agencies resulting in cuts to vital services to the students we serve? We don’t know. What we do know, is that this is not legislation. It is another promise that may or may not happen depending on whether the state legislature passes it, and future legislatures may simply erase all these gains through tax cut,” the statement reads.

Kyrene Superintendent Jan Vesely said the governor’s decision sends a “clear message of his awareness of the value of qualified teachers in every classroom, the understanding that an engaged teacher may be the greatest indicator of student success, and the undeniable fact that those teachers, who are in service to our children every day, were being woefully underpaid – a truth we have long known, became truth to all.”

Tempe Elementary Superintendent Christine Busch said she appreciated Ducey’s willingness to work closely with others to provide increased funding for education and is “hopeful that Governor Ducey has the very best interest of children” at the core of his decision.

“Governor Ducey’s proposal to increase teacher pay by 20% and to restore cuts from DAA will increase districts’ ability to attract and retain highly effective teachers and support staff, as well as to address capital needs critical to district operations,” Busch said.  

“The future of Arizona children depends on setting aside partisan politics, rolling up our sleeves and working together across all aisles to design solutions for the challenges we face.”

Rep. Jill Norgaard, R-Dist. 18, said her children attended public school and had a “wonderful” experience there. She’s concerned the threatened teacher walkout would negatively impact students who rely on meals at school, employees who are not salaried and are not paid for time off, student athletes and graduating seniors. A teacher walkout, Norgaard said, would break educators’ commitment “to a previously signed contract.”

“Our focus must continue to be what is best for students.”

An email message to Kyrene families sent by Vesely emphasized the district’s commitment to the well-being of students. If a walkout occurs, school days would be made up starting May 25, extending the school calendar.
As a district, we are encouraging our staff to avoid disruption of the school day, or loss of classroom instruction, as they express their support of the #RedforEd message. Any activity that forces the cancellation of class or interrupts the learning of the children with whom we are entrusted would be unacceptable and this position has been shared with our staff.”


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