More school days and less vacation for one Valley school

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Funds will go to low-income schools

PHOENIX - Much of the stimulus money will go toward education, particularly to low-income schools.

President Barack Obama wants children to spend more time in the classroom and his stimulus will help one Valley school district do just that.

It is the beginning of Spring Break at Balsz Elementary School in Phoenix which will be a two-week vacation for Kinder through 8th graders.

Nevertheless, starting in 2010 students at that school will spend less time at home and more time in the classroom.

One student tells 3TV, "I think it's cool!" The Balsz School District is ahead of the game in many ways by becoming the first in Arizona and one of the first across the nation to add 20 days to the traditional 180-day school year.

To do that, spring, fall and winter breaks will be one week shorter and an extra week of classes will be added in June.

Superintendent Dr. Jeff Smith says, "It does not take a rocket scientist to understand that when students have more time to learn and teachers have more time to teach that learning will occur."

Sixth-grade teacher Richard Morris agrees. He tells 3TV, "We are extremely committed to our students in this district and it really goes to show how much we want our kids to succeed and excel!"

Right now Balsz is considered an underperforming school district. Dr. Smith hopes the extended school year helps change that. He admits, "We don't want to be underperforming, we want to be a succeeding and excelling school district.

Because of its low-income status, the district, which is home to 3,000 students, is automatically eligible for extra federal stimulus money. That and a voter-approved school tax voted on last November will help cover the costs.

Overall parents and students do not seem to mind the idea of a longer school year. Toncia Robertson, one parent, explains, "I really don't have a problem with it because I think they can learn more." Manuela Trujillo, a 5th-grader, adds, "It's good for our education."

The teachers in the district are the real heroes. More than 170 of them have agreed to be a part of this change set to take place next year.