SHOW LOW — “We’ve gone through some very difficult times but we are thankful for our community and their support,” says Show Low Unified School District Superintendent Shad Housley about the last six weeks of school. “We believe in achieving excellence together and have taken steps to show students, parents and the community that ‘With US YOU can.’”

White Mountain school districts, like those across the state and the country, were ordered to begin close of their campuses in late March to prevent the spread of coronavirus. Educators found ways to work around the closures, creating study packets, initiating online instruction, holding ZOOM meetings with their students and using the Google Classroom platform.

“We essentially came out of spring break — closed,” says Housley.

The Independent was invited to the Show Low district office to hear a preview of how the district plans to begin the fall semester.

“During a difficult and unprecedented time, the district rallied together as a community,” says Housley. “And school closure wasn’t the only difficulty — we endured the Rawlings tragedy. Now, we want to provide students every opportunity to achieve excellence.”

What’s new

The district will offer five pathways to graduation for high school students. Several new programs have been added to the curriculum and the district is implementing a new philosophy referred to as, “With US YOU can.”

“We are going to offer an experience that feels as close to normal as possible,” assures Housley. “We’re looking to be as responsive as we can to parents.”

“School is a fluid situation because we might need to be in quarantine for 14 days if a student or teacher gets COVID-19. We’ve taken specific steps to prepare for the new year.” (These steps will be communicated through the schools website and Facebook page.)

5 pathways to graduation:

Traditional — This is traditional, in-school classes for 9th — 12th grade at the Show Low High School campus

Early College Program — For students that are more university-minded, they have a way to take classes and graduate with an Associates Degree.

Dual enrollment & concurrent enrollment — For students that aren’t ready to focus 100% on college, they can take some classes at Northland Pioneer College (NPC) and some at the high school. For example, a high school student can take college level English 101 while taking high school classes. “NPC has structured this and partnered with us so that students can take these college classes tuition-free,” informs Housley.

Career and technical education (CTE) — Programs have been expanded. Students can graduate high school with a welding certificate, for example.

White Mountain Institute (WMI) — This is a stand-alone school where students physically attend 20 hours per week. The focus is academics. “WMI whittles down to the core classes and credits required for graduation by the state; it’s a great option for students that are working, are adjudicated or competing in something like rodeo that requires them to travel,” explains Housley. (Currently, WMI is 6-12 but the District is hoping to add a K-5 option.)

Expanded programs

Northern Arizona Vocational Institute of Technology (NAVIT) — Most public schools offer NAVIT but Show Low is the first to offer early college, said Housley. In this model students attend one class at the high school and attend NPC for the remainder.

“We piloted this program last year and had 17 graduates in 2020,” says Housley. “We feel strongly about the value of this program because of the way it prepares students.”

“Freshman college students can be like that wobbly foal trying to stand up — stand on their own,” describes Housley. “We stand with them and help move them to the next level of independence.”

White Mountain Institute (WMI) Online — This program allows any student inside the state of Arizona to enroll in the online academy called WMI. “The curriculum is accredited and rigorous, requiring students to be online 25 hours per week,” says Housley. “They can do their online classes anywhere they have connectivity.”

New classes

“We’ve been fortunate to add programs where other districts have had to cut them,” says Housley. Robotics, sports medicine and animation have been added to the CTE curriculum.

White Mountain Works is an internship program that connects seniors with employers in the White Mountain region.

“Environmental sciences has been added to regular academics and our Physical Education and fine arts programs are strong,” assures Housley.

”With US, YOU can”

A new philosophy (and program) the district has adopted is called, “With US, YOU can.”

Show Low High School Administrative Secretary, Becky Field, is part of a committee working to develop and implement this program.

“The emphasis is on ‘US’ and ‘YOU’,” says Field. “Through this program we want to support the community, the parents and the students. One of our goals, as a district, is to reduce the stress that COVID-19 brings by continuously communicating with students and parents.”

“’With US, YOU can” is part of our over-arching idea behind achieving excellence together,” adds Housley. “We wouldn’t have been able to achieve all that we did in the last school year without parents and community leaders. This is a way to keep that momentum.”

Virtual updates — Important updates will be provided to students, teachers and parents on a weekly basis via the District’s Facebook page and website,” says Becky. “Parents will start to hear our formal plan for opening August 17. This will include legislative information, Arizona Department of Education directives, COVID-19 precautions, etc.”

Alumni Video — The “With US, YOU can” committee is also working on an alumni video that shares how the District has brought other students forward into their adult career paths,” says Field. “There are all types of career paths and students aren’t limited because they live in a rural area.”

To watch the video, enter the following link in your browser: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TWpcWUygTgo&feature=youtu.be 

Marketing Video — The committee is also compiling a marketing video for the District. It will showcase much of what students, teachers and parents accomplished during the last nine weeks of school when COVID-19 made campus closures mandatory.

During the COVID-19 closure, an elementary school “Safarizona” (safari game about Arizona) was made available online for kids to follow along said Becky.

Online courses were also available through the Edgenuity program.

“We were still able to hold graduation events with COVID-19 going on,” says Housley. “The amount of community support was phenomenal — to have the show mobile stage, the radio station, the parade, donated signs for each of the seniors. Not to mention the supportive and respectful way that people conducted themselves in a difficult situation.”

“Achieving excellence together is what we want to make happen,” says Field.

If you have questions about the District programs or the upcoming school semester, visit the SLUSD website at www.showlow.education or follow them on Facebook at “Show Low Unified School District.”

Reach the reporter at

lsingleton@wmicentral.com

Laura Singleton is a reporter for the White Mountain Independent, covering Show Low city government, business and education.

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