Gilbert Public Schools studies longer fall, spring breaks

Jason Martin, Gilbert Public Schools
Jason Martin, Gilbert Public Schools elementary education executive director, speaks to the governing board about school calendar choices for the 2022-23 and 2023-24 school years. (Screen capture from YouTube)

Jason Martin, Gilbert Public Schools elementary education executive director, speaks to the governing board about school calendar choices for the 2022-23 and 2023-24 school years. (Screen capture from YouTube)

A survey of parents and staff in Gilbert Public Schools showed growing support for two-week fall and spring breaks, district officials said.

Survey results from a 2020 survey showed about a 2% percent uptick among both parents and staff from a 2018 survey, according to Elementary Education Executive Director Jason Martin, who made the presentation in a study session of the GPS governing board.

The “2-2-2 option”—two weeks for fall, winter and spring breaks—is used in neighboring districts Higley USD and Chandler USD. The GPS survey had 50.5% of parents in favor of 2-2-2 and 65% of staff.

The district uses a 1-2-1 model—one week for fall and spring breaks and two in winter.

Changing the calendar would move the start of school into July from the first week of August, according to calendar proposals for the 2022-23 and 2023-24 school years used in the survey and put before the board.


Because it was a study session, no action was taken.

Comprehensive annual financial report

Business Services Assistant Superintendent Bonnie Betz presented the comprehensive annual financial report, which showed district revenues for maintenance and operations and unrestricted capital grew from $225 million in fiscal year 2018-19 to $241.8 million in FY 2019-20.

Most of the growth, about $13.7 million, came from state sources, which make up 59% of the district’s revenue. That came mainly from Gov. Doug Ducey's 20 by '20 plan to raise teacher salaries, but the program expired this fiscal year, and no additional funding is coming. It also came from an unexpected bump in enrollment last school year, which played a role in additional state funding from its education funding formula.

Jennifer Shields from Heinfeld, Meech & Co., which is conducting the district’s independent financial audit, said the district is on track to have no significant findings in this year’s audit.

If that holds true when the audit is completed, it will be the first audit without significant findings since FY 2011-12.

Betz and the district’s financial team have been working since Betz’s hire in July 2018 to continuously improve the district’s position in the audit. Board member Reed Carr, who works as a chief financial officer in a real estate private equity firm, praised the team for getting the district back to this point.

Gilbert Global Academy

The board also heard an update from the administrative team at Gilbert Global Academy, the district’s online school, about operations this year in synchronous and asynchronous online learning environments.

Enrollment exploded in the past year because of COVID-19’s effect on the educational system and likely will recede next year if the pandemic is contained, Academy Director Peter Bartanen said.

However, his goal is to make it into the premier online academy in the state. Bartanen said the academy has started to draw students from other areas outside the district boundaries.
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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