Gilbert Public Schools preparing three back-to-school scenarios

Gilbert Public Schools
Gilbert Public Schools is working on three different back-to-school scenarios for the 2020-21 school year. (Tom Blodgett/Community Impact Newspaper)

Gilbert Public Schools is working on three different back-to-school scenarios for the 2020-21 school year. (Tom Blodgett/Community Impact Newspaper)

A Gilbert Public Schools task force is preparing three back-to-school scenarios for the 2020-21 school year with a preference for in-person learning, officials told the governing board May 26.

“We miss our students,” said Barbara Newman, the district’s teaching and learning executive director. “We want to be back with them. And so while the normal has not clearly been defined for us, we do want to be sure that everyone knows that we are committed to being back with our kids.”

Newman said the committee will determine how that looks based on state guidance.

The task force is also looking at a hybrid model, perhaps with some students on campus while others work remotely, and an online-only model.

The task force plans to give a recommendation to the governing board on how the district will proceed at the board’s June 23 meeting.

However, Superintendent Shane McCord said, even then, the district must be prepared to “turn on a dime” based on events with the coronavirus pandemic.

“We want to be sure that we are offering some sort of fluidity so that we're able to move, if we have to, from one scenario to the next,” Newman said. “If something occurs outside of our control, we want to be sure that we're ready for our kids.”

The task force has 11 subcommittees to cover areas from academics to operations to whole-child supports as it prepares for the different scenarios, and each subcommittee will have an implementation strategy, Newman said.

Bond sales

The governing board unanimously approved May 26 the issue and sale of $40 million in school improvement bonds. The bonds represent the final $8 million of bonds from the 2015 ballot and the first $32 million approved by voters in November 2019.

The bonds will be used in the areas of security, technology and facilities/maintenance, Business Services Assistant Superintendent Bonnie Betz said.

Bill Davis, from the district’s bond adviser, Piper Sandler, said the timing of the bond sale is part needs based but also comes at a time when the district can get favorable interest rates.

Summer activities

Students will be able to attend summer school and simultaneously attend district summer camps under plans presented to the board by Director of Community Education Jared Ryan.

The district is offering the camps for preschoolers through eighth-graders at the five district high schools over a 10-week period, with discounts for multiple-week bookings. The programs include the Building Blocks Preschool program, VIK (Very Important Kids) and The Zone.

Ryan also outlined strict guidelines and protocols being put in place to promote health and safety for summer camp participants and staff.

More information and how to register can be found at

The district also is beginning to accept reservations from groups for facility rentals, which would start June 1, Allen said. Groups will have strict protocols to follow and will be monitored to make sure that they are doing so.

Summer athletics

District high school teams will be able to start summer training June 1 following a four-stage approach toward opening up, Athletic Director Steve McDowell told the board.

The first phase will be oriented toward conditioning and will last two weeks at minimum. Participants must stay 6 feet apart, and no more than 30 participants are allowed depending on space requirements.

Subsequent phases will come when state guidelines allow for further relaxation of rules, and no time frames have been set, McDowell said.

District coaches are meeting by Zoom on May 28. McCord said any coach who fails to follow the district’s protocols will have their summer program shut down.

Other business

  • The district will move work study sessions and board business meetings from 6:30 p.m. to 6 p.m. next school year and will move policy meetings from 10 a.m. to 11:30 a.m. It will also change the date of a scheduled Nov. 3 meeting to Nov. 4 to avoid meeting the night of the presidential election.

  • The board unanimously approved a $1.06 million parking lot renovation at Val Vista Lakes Elementary School. The renovation includes adding a bus lane and reconfiguring traffic to make it safer.

By Tom Blodgett
Raised in Arizona, Tom Blodgett has spent 30 years in journalism in Arizona and is the editor of the Gilbert edition of Community Impact Newspaper. He is a graduate of Arizona State University, where he now serves as an instructional professional in the Walter Cronkite School of Journalism and Mass Communication and editorial adviser to The State Press, the university's independent student media outlet.


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