Schools in Montezuma Creek are anticipating a large number of new students, as Utah students from the Red Mesa area will no longer be able to attend school at the Red Mesa schools in Arizona.
The Arizona schools have been sending buses into Utah for years, and more than 100 Utah students attended the Arizona schools. Several months ago, Arizona announced that Utah students could no longer attend the schools.
Since that time, the Red Mesa School District has tried and failed, to date, to find a way to welcome the Utah students.
Red Mesa Superintendent Dr. Tommy Yazzie and Red Mesa Chapter President Herman Farley met with the San Juan School Board on August 7 to discuss the issue. However, since Arizona will not pay to educate the Utah students and Utah will not pay Arizona to educate Utah students, it appears as if the Utah students will attend school in Montezuma Creek.
Several parents of Red Mesa students asked the group to find a solution. They are concerned that their students, many of whom live very close to the Red Mesa schools, will spend too much time riding the bus to Montezuma Creek.
School board members expressed concern for the situation but explained that they cannot use funds set aside for students in Utah to educate students in Arizona.
Whitehorse High School and Montezuma Creek Elementary School held an open house on August 13 to welcome the new students and address community concerns.
The San Juan schools plan is to show evidence of the success at the schools. Schools in the San Juan School District have done better on No Child Left Behind measures than other schools on the reservation.
Ron Nielson, the district’s elementary school supervisor, asked the Utah students to visit the schools in Montezuma Creek. “If you haven’t been in our buildings recently, come and see what is really happening there. We are very involved tracking performance and can show how we are doing,” said Nielson. “We want to focus on the positive things that are happening, rather than the negative things.”
District official stressed that busses will run through the area, and that the district is committed to providing transportation to every student.
There will be many new faces to greet the students throughout the district. A total of 32 new professional staff have been hired in the 12 schools of the district. This is twice as many new employees as are usually hired.
In addition to new employees, there are new principals at five of the district schools, including Julie Holt at Monticello Elementary, Mark Burge at Blanding Elementary, Boyd Silversmith at Montezuma Creek Elementary, Sheryl Soderstrom at Tse’bii’nidzisgai Elementary, and Kim Bailey at Albert R. Lyman Middle School. In addition, there are four new assistant principals in the district.
Full time art teachers will greet students in high schools in Monticello, Montezuma Creek and Monument Valley. Funding for the positions came from the state legislature in an attempt to increase opportunities for students in small schools.
Monticello High School students will return to a newly remodeled school. Crews have been working day and night to complete the $2.5 million project, which includes a new roof, windows, plumbing and wiring. Several classrooms were remodeled, including the technology and distance education instructional areas. Hallways were spruced up, locker rooms remodeled and a new shine will greet students.
The project to build a new Monticello Elementary School moved forward at the August 7 meeting of the San Juan School Board. Plans were approved with a $10 million budget and Hughes Construction was hired as the construction management firm for the project.
School District Business Manager Clayton Holt said that extensive excavation work at the site will begin this fall. “The goal in timing this is to have Mother Nature work with us rather than against us,” said Holt.
Dirt will be moved this fall with the intent to begin construction as soon as the snow melts in the spring. “We want to get everything out of the ground before the snow flies next fall,” explained Holt.
The new school will open for students in August, 2014.
The new school will be built immediately west of the current school. The gymnasium, which will not be rebuilt, will be separate from the new building.
Holt explained that separating the buildings helps save nearly $1 million because it allows the current building to be used during the construction phase, rather than using temporary buildings for instruction.
When the old building is torn down, the area in front of the new school will be used for parking.
Other new changes for the school year include 300 new computers at Blanding Elementary School, new paint throughout Montezuma Creek Elementary School, and a newly paved parking lot at the district office in Blanding.