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San Tan Valley school district to open traditional academy

The growing district opened a high school this year after a surge of students brought by massive residential growth in the area east of Queen Creek and south of Apache Junction. The district has about 4,200 students.

Districts welcome an influx of students; they receive state funding according to a per-student formula.

Neighboring Apache Junction and Queen Creek unified school districts do not have a traditional academy - a void which J.O. Combs officials hope to fill.

J.O. Combs officials think the timing is right to open one to meet the needs of families living within the district's boundaries and outside of them. Teachers at traditional academies run classes the old-fashioned way from the front of the room, leading students through lessons on spelling, math, reading and writing. The students sit in precise rows, following the teacher together through every lesson with minimal distraction.

The closest districts with traditional academies are Mesa, Chandler and Gilbert unified school districts, and most of them have waiting lists with dozens of families hoping to enroll their children. But those academies are miles from J.O. Combs' families.

Assistant Superintendent Gayle Blanchard has been at J.O. Combs for about two years. Prior to working there, she was the principal of a Gilbert Public Schools' first traditional academy, Neely.

Blanchard said answered several questions about plans for the academy.

Q: What is a traditional school?

A: Traditional schools typically are focused on core content areas of reading, writing and math. You may not find as many assemblies or field trips or other activities or events that would take the students out of the classroom.

Teachers give direct instruction. Students sit in rows, unlike the tables or pods you might see in the classrooms at other schools.

Q: Which grades will it have? Can any student do well in a traditional academy?

A: It will be a K-5. This type of learning environment is not for all students. The type of student (who does well in the academy) is fairly motivated. They like routine and structure. They like to be challenged. They're also the type of student who likes to work independently.

Q: Will the academy include sports or clubs for children?

A: If we're going to do clubs or intramurals, with enough interest, we would provide those outside of the school day.

Q: Is there a waiting list?

A: If the capacity is 200, it will be maxed at 200. So there could be a waiting list. . . . We really aren't excluding anybody. It will be open enrollment. Q: Where will the district put the traditional academy?

A: It would be at the Combs & Gantzel Campus (37327 N. Gantzel Road in San Tan Valley).

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Saturday, 13 July 2024

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