What’s next for Big Park Community School property?

Like many of our friends and neighbors, you are very likely wondering what happens next, after the closing of our neighborhood Big Park Community School. 

Much has been happening, most assuredly.

Unfortunately, due to declining enrollment throughout the Sedona Oak Creek School District, the School Board determined that they could no longer operate two elementary schools. 

The District, therefore, chose to close Big Park Community School, the higher rated school based on recent test scores, in an attempt to consolidate the two elementary schools. 

As predicted, this decision led to a large number of Big Park families to enroll their children in other regional public, charter, and private schools, outside of the Sedona-Oak Creek Unified School District. 

Additionally, a number of parents are “home-schooling” their children while other families have moved out of the Verde Valley altogether.

A group of concerned and invested Village citizens gathered immediately following the closure of Big Park Community School to explore our options to bring Excellence in Education back to our community. 

The group is informally named the Big Park Education Exploratory Committee, composed of about 16 Big Park parents, grandparents and neighbors.

Our group felt strongly that it is our civic responsibility to explore the possibility of re-establishing a school in our Village. Dynamic schools attract dynamic communities --there is most definitely a reciprocal and mutually beneficial relationship. 

The vitality of the school is due, in part, to the active participation from the members of the community. Since the most likely path to success involves an existing Charter School, the group researched high achieving and well-reputed charter schools throughout the state. 

The concept is to expand an existing charter (less time consuming) rather than to create a new charter (complex and time consuming). 

The group has met with and interviewed various candidates, hoping to select an existing not-for-profit charter school that is open to all students, with an existing high-quality curriculum similar to the International Baccalaureate program begun two years ago.

The Big Park Education Exploratory Committee believes strongly that neighborhood schools best serve the educational needs of younger students.

Strong neighborhood schools are also the heart of any community.

For further information, contact David Gill, at bigparkeducation@gmail.com, a member of the committee,.

PS ... these test scores say it all

Recently published test scores for Arizona schools tell us what we suspected all along: our Big Park Community School has been a high achiever and the positive effects of the International Baccalaureate program were just beginning to demonstrate the excellence of that program and the extraordinary benefits for the children.

The table below, including data published by the Arizona State Board of Education, demonstrates that our own community school made significant strides against its performance in 2017.

How disappointing that the SOCUSD decided to close our high performing school and thereby destroy the seeds of investment in education excellence planted through the International Baccalaureate program.

The AZ Merit examinations (http://kjzz.org/az-merit-search) measure student achievement in language arts and mathematics at public and charter schools grades 3-12 throughout Arizona. The scores reflect the average percentage passing rate for each school.  Although these scores are an average of the third through twelfth grades, they give the public valid information about trends in student achievement.

The 2018 examinations were administered in March and April, before the closing of Big Park Community School.

The Big Park community thanks Debbie Jones, immediate past Principal of Big Park Community School, and her dedicated staff of excellent teachers, for these impressive test scores.

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