The Gilbert Unified School District is looking to open its first self-contained classroom for either second- or third-graders who are academically gifted next school year.
For the last few months, district leaders have explored gifted programs around the Valley to find out what is offered. Last month, a survey was sent out to parents of Gilbert gifted students — the survey was also offered to the public — to seek input on the district’s program and to gauge interest in having a self-contained classroom where all the students are identified as gifted.
Of the group of Gilbert parents who responded, 87 percent with children in first or second grades and 88 percent with children in third, fourth or fifth grades said they would consider a self-contained program.
The survey results and proposal were presented to the district’s governing board Tuesday night. Board members gave district leaders direction to move forward with the self-contained classroom plan.
The district will now call those parents and ask them if they will leave their current schools to attend a self-contained classroom at Pioneer Elementary School, the site identified by Superintendent Dave Allison because it is centrally located and has space available. The campus is about one mile south of U.S. 60 at the corner of Baseline and Greenfield roads.
Based on the survey, the district believes there will be enough interest to fill a classroom with about 28 students when the 2013-14 school-year begins in August.
School leaders also want to see the district hire at least a half-time gifted coordinator. That work is now done by the district’s math coordinator, who is deep into Common Core Standards implementation, Barb VeNard, the district’s assistant superintendent for educational services, told the governing board. Most surrounding districts have at least a half-time gifted coordinator, she said.
The governing board said that decision would really have to be examined once the district knows its budget from the state for next school year — which may still be a few weeks away as the governor and lawmakers negotiate.
The district will also put together a vision for gifted education to include with the strategic planning that is being created.
A final decision on opening the self-contained gifted classroom will be based on the commitment from parents to participate and the budget for 2012-13, the governing board and superintendent said.
It would cost the district an estimated $84,000 to open one self-contained classroom, according to VeNard. That would include funds to pay for a gifted endorsed teacher ($50,000), technology for the classroom ($13,800) and textbooks and supplemental resources ($13,500).
East Valley school districts offer gifted education in various ways. Chandler Unified School District has had self-contained classrooms since the 1970s. Mesa Unified School District pulls out older elementary students from their regular classrooms and then transports groups of them to one central location once a week for “enrichment” education.
Gilbert now uses a “cluster” model for younger grades, where gifted students at a school are all put together in one classroom by grade level with other typical students. Gifted students in fourth through sixth grades are pulled out of their mainstream classroom during math or language arts to receive “accelerated” instruction from a teacher.
The district wants to use the pullout program for third grade in the future, but keep the cluster model for younger students.
The self-contained classroom will be reserved for students who have been identified has “highly” gifted, scoring at least a 97 (out of 100) in one area (such as math or language arts) and a 90 in another.
Members of the gifted community praised the district for its work during the Tuesday governing board meeting.
“I’m very impressed by what I’ve heard so far in the presentation,” said Jill Humphreys, a member of Gilbert Supporters of the Gifted. “I appreciate the support given to gifted education. … I have spoken to many parents who are very anxious to see what happens in the Gilbert district who have children not in the district at this time, but who would be willing and happy to bring their children to the district.”
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