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District 1 asks Santa for new school for east Yuma
As schools across the nation struggle with tightening budgets, the Yuma Sun staff sat down with area school districts to find out what Yumans could do to help out. This story is one in a series called “All I want for Christmas.”
One of the top items on Yuma Elementary District 1's Christmas wish list this year is a new school in east Yuma to help account for the growing population in the area.
The hope is to eventually build an elementary school east of Avenue 3E and south of Interstate 8, said Superintendent Darwin Stiffler, adding that unfortunately it would cost millions of dollars to do that.
“Our budget is about $10 million less than it was five years ago for perspective... and things don't cost less than they did five years ago.”
While the district did recently close Gwyneth Ham Elementary School, he noted that it was part of the process to begin to qualify for a new school where there is increasing population growth.
“Where we have schools now is where it made sense to build schools 50, 60, 70 years ago,” he said, noting that now a new school is needed in the Foothills.
“...That's a huge need. The Foothills isn't just retired folks anymore, there are families out there. And just because we have space in town, that's not the longterm solution to just drive everyone into town where we have space.”
So far, he said, various developers have offered vacant plots of land that the district could use to build a school on, but then there's the issue of actually having the funds to build a school and staff it.
“We have extra space in our schools in town but those schools out east are pretty close to full and when Yuma really starts churning again they will be full and we need to be ahead of that curve,” he said.
Another way the community can be assisting the district is by volunteering to come in and do a science experiment with students.
“We have a lot of really special people in town who can share and also be a great model for kids,” Stiffler said. “Even more than just the learning of how to do that activity or that science but to be a model so that a student has a visual imprint of, ‘That's what that looks like, that's what I can be.'”
Another example, he said, is that people in the past have donated to put together a greenhouse at O.C. Johnson Elementary and that is something that can be replicated at other campuses or with the construction of a school garden.
Stiffler said that he is grateful for the donations that they receive in the district monthly, as November's total gifts equaled $7,576 for a year-to-date total of $53,088.
“A lot of people go over and above to donate to our district — $150 here, $100 here, a printer, 100 jump ropes — the list goes on and on,” he said.
In order to donate to a school in District 1, he said, community members can bring in their donations to a school, teacher or to the district office, 450 W. 6th St., or also in the form of a tax credit.
Stiffler explained that tax credits are great ways to donate because people can designate which campus they want their funds to go toward and it just comes right off of a person's taxes. A state tax credit may be taken for up to $200 for individuals and $400 for married couples filing jointly.
“If you pay $2,000 in Arizona state taxes you've already paid $400 if you do it as a married couple and then you only owe $1,600,” he said.
Stiffler noted that the tax credit funds go toward extracurricular activities like field trips, athletics or fine arts.
“I can't buy a new math teacher with it, it's only for extracurricular activities,” he said. “If someone says that the donation goes to Fourth Avenue Junior High, I'm not allowed to say no. It can't be switched and used for anything else.”
He concluded that the total amount of funds they received in tax credits last year was $93,000. While that is a lot of money, Stiffler said, he'd like to see it doubled in the future as it used to be as high as $180,000 in years past.
“We have much more room for people to take advantage of this opportunity,” he said.
Visit www.yuma.org and hover over the “schools” tab and then click on the “tax credits” link for information about how to contribute a tax credit donation or contact 502-4317.
Sarah Womer can be reached at email@example.com or 539-6858. Find her on Facebook at Facebook.com/YSSarahWomer or on Twitter at @YSSarahWomer.
Here in District One we have been good boys and girls this year so it seemed appropriate to forward you our Christmas Wish List.
1. Happy, healthy students and staff in 2013
2. An elementary school east of 3E and south of Interstate 8
3. No new unfunded mandates
4. Volunteer professionals to be speakers in our AVID classes
5. Parents to ask their children what they learned at school every day and to not believe them when they say “nothing”
6. Yumans to take advantage of Arizona's Extracurricular Tax Credits to target their tax dollars where they choose
7. Volunteer science experts to help students with science investigations
8. The continued confidence of Yuma in its public schools
Darwin J. Stiffler, Ed.D.
Yuma Elementary School District One
phone: (928) 502-4303