Originally Published: September 19, 2016 6 a.m.
After a fabulous summer and a smooth start to the school year, I find myself yearning for the cool of the fall season. I think this is because the fall reminds us all of the beginning of school. It is a time with excitement and great potential in the air because of so many new opportunities for our students and staff. To add to this, there is that feeling of football season coming on with the Friday night lights. There is nothing quite like walking into the first football game of the year at Prescott High School’s Bill Shepard Field with a strong cross-section of our community in the stands and the sun setting over Thumb Butte. We have so many amazing things happening in the Prescott Unified School District. Our message to you this fall is, “Come Join Us!” Take a look at our website for the upcoming events in athletics, the arts and so much more. Come and join me in being extremely proud of our hard working and talented students. In turn, I promise that they will entertain you.
Over this last weekend, the Prescott Unified School District Education Foundation held its first annual “Run For Excellence” for our school community. It was a blast. Students, families and staff from every school and grade level throughout PUSD came together for a morning of fun and games to help support and raise awareness for the foundation’s mission. This Foundation is a pioneer in supporting our schools, and is quickly becoming a model for districts across Arizona. The Foundation links community and alumni resources – time, money, services and expertise – with the needs of our schools to enhance and complement the educational mission of PUSD. Their goals are to build broad-based support for educational excellence, increase the visibility and value of our schools, and promote the understanding that everyone in the community is responsible for creating a quality educational system. I love the quote on their website that states, “We are passionate people inspired to help provide for the much needed resources that are not funded through local, state, or federal taxes.” Take a look at their work at pusdeducationfoundation.com.
I also wanted to mention another partner that is looking out for our kids. Arizona Champions for Children is a grassroots organization headed up by a passionate couple, Kevin and Jenise Edwards. The two of them are very focused on making sure that no student ever misses out on an extracurricular activity because they do not have the funds to participate. While this has always been a focus for our school district (we scholarship any student for an activity if we know that they need help), Champions for Children offers monetary support that we have not had in the past. You can learn more about them at www.azchampionsforchildren.org. Don’t miss their signature event, the “Guns and Hoses” softball fundraiser, for scholarships featuring the Prescott Police vs. Prescott Fire at 2 p.m. Saturday, Sept. 24, at Ken Lindley Field.
A very important and timely topic in our district is the proposed sale of three of our PUSD buildings. On Sept. 6, our Governing Board approved moving forward with sale contracts on our district office, Dexter Elementary and Miller Valley Elementary. We are now in an escrow process, which will potentially be completed in early February. Pricing details will be disclosed at the close of the sale.
We are looking into details to move the district office personnel to Washington School, where we would be housed on the second story, above our Discovery Gardens preschool. One of the best parts of that for me would be to share the building with 100-plus eager preschoolers. If you haven’t spent time with a preschooler lately, I highly recommend it!
Many ask whether our district has room for growth if these buildings are sold. Our administration studied this as a part of the Governing Board’s decision. At the three elementary schools, there is still space for an additional 12 classrooms, offering space for 312 additional students and at the “middle levels,” grades 5-8, there are 10 classrooms worth of space for 300 additional students. At Prescott High School, there are approximately 10 classrooms available, which would allow space for the growth of 350 students.
There is also the question of how the district would use sale monies. This would be decided in future board meetings. These monies may be used, by law, only for capital items. Maintenance and Operations such as salaries and daily needs could not be supported by these funds. The board might consider using some of these monies for minor renovations at Washington School to accommodate office space if the district office is sold. Many indications point to the district being very thoughtful with the building sales monies as we look into the future of our community and ask what we ultimately want for our students. In the past 10 years, there have been many discussions and inquiries into the Mile High Middle School property as a future community space. Along with that future planning, discussion always includes the mention of a 21st century high school to someday replace the Mile High building. Just as it was the will of this community to sell our empty schools, we will be looking for community input and direction if decisions like these come our way in the future. This is a long-term discussion, and although no one can predict the future, these decisions will be made based on what our community wants to see for the future of our children. It is an exciting topic … the future!