Grand Canyon school concerned with spending limit
Statewide school districts risk having to cut their budgets by a combined $1.4 billion
GRAND CANYON, Ariz. — Sixteen percent of Grand Canyon Unified School District’s (GCUSD) $4 million budget is in question as the state of Arizona’s Aggregate Expenditure Limit (AEL) issue remains unresolved. Statewide school districts risk having to cut their budgets by a combined $1.4 billion as long as the AEL ties districts’ spending to the total number of students enrolled in the state.
“We expect the governor and the legislature to vote because we think it’s political suicide for them to let all school districts be in such a bad spot,” said Matthew Yost, superintendent of Grand Canyon School.
Changes to the AEL are at an impasse with the state legislature out of session “in order to vote in order to get rid of this archaic 1980s control,” Yost said at the Dec. 7 school board meeting, and lack the two-thirds support to call a special session as the year ends.
“If you lop some 16 percent off the budget it makes it extremely difficult to operate,” Yost said. “In a small school, it’s harder to get through the budgeting process. “Every penny is spent and you’re trying to squeeze it out. Being in a remote location it’s harder to get contractors up here, vendors up here. We’re a smaller school. So we’re not as enticing because it’s not as big of a contract. But we still need work done.”
GCUSD has 80 acres it received from the forest service under the Education Land Grant. 30 acres is now the sports complex with the city of Tusayan with another 50 acres east of the complex towards the airport.
The partnership between GCUSD and Tusayan started in 2015 with the basketball court and current infrastructure built, future additions discussed include indoor and outdoor classrooms.
The city of Tusayan and GCUSD decided that the sports complex’s next major step is the development of a master plan with the city council moving forward with a $49,000 budget for the proposal at its Dec. 14 meeting. This will mark the first time public input will be sought for its management since the district first acquired the property over a decade ago.
Currently GCUSD is in the discussion of doing: a joint-project with the city to interview community members, partnerships and feasibility studies of what would be beneficial on that property according Yost.
“We talked about a big ramada and other other facilities we want to do,” Andrew Aldaz community liaison said. “But the school and town want to make sure that we have a master plan to be able to place things in the right location so we don’t have to relocate things once they’re on the ground.”
High speed internet
After the completion of the high-speed fiber optic line to the school district in August talks are ongoing between Commnet Broadband and the town of Tusayan to expand services to South Rim area businesses and residents. Additionally the $6 million project was largely funded by the federal government’s “E-Rate” program, GCUSD is currently trying to find ways to use E-Rate and grant funding “to support families around the school to be able to get internet,” Yost said.
GCUSD is looking at ways to secure grant funding for an electrical school bus to add to its fleet, however the grant requires the retirement of a fossil fuel vehicle and doesn’t include the charging infrastructure. If the district is unsuccessful in securing that grant funding a bus has been designated to be sold and replaced according to Yost at the school board meeting.
A challenge for the district is the bus fleet is aging and prior administrations didn’t regularly purchase new vehicles which is compounded by the typical cost of a $200,000 bus for a small district according to Yost.
The district’s 15-20 security cameras are also becoming “a little antiquated,” and the district was recently placed on lockdown on Oct. 26 when:
“Rangers received a report of suspicious noises near Grand Canyon Unified School District. The reporting party heard 4-5 loud pops and was unsure of the source,” according to the NPS report. “Investigation revealed an ATV had backfired approximately 4-5 times while driving in the area.”
GCUSD is looking at using opportunities with school facilities boards to get camera upgrades according to Yost who also stated the measures are the current norm.
Curriculum The district has invested in Savvas math and ELA K-12 curriculum a move that Yost said he has been pushing for a while that was paused when the previous superintendent Rochonne “Shonny” Bria passed away in Nov. 2021.
“Once they selected me as the superintendent, that was one of my number one goals,” he said. “Our teachers are excited now; they’re drinking from a firehose, trying to learn a new curriculum while teaching it. For elementary (teachers) doing both math and ELA at the same time is very challenging. But they’re still excited and they want to get better at it.”
The next major action for the Grand Canyon school board will be a Special Meeting on Jan. 11 when the board will select its 2023 officers and County Superintendent Cheryl Mango-Paget will administer the Oath of Office for all board members.
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