In April, the Santa Cruz County School District, which oversees local schools, learned it would receive $5.8 million over three years to meet needs identified throughout the district. Planning for the programs and additional staffing is still in the early stages, but it is certain some of the windfall will benefit Patagonia and Elgin schools.

Perhaps most notably, a preschool will be built on the Elgin School campus. Mary Faley, School Superintendent, said an early childhood program has long been a community dream. “Now we will go to work on choosing a site, planning the building, securing licensing, and setting curriculum. It will take a while, but we are thrilled to start the process.” 

In the Patagonia School District, there will be enhancements to the existing preschool program and a focus on social/emotional learning, a need made critical by the loss of in-person learning during the pandemic. The Gear Up Program, which has engaged tenth graders and their families in early college and career planning, will be expanded to all the secondary grades. It includes tutoring, mentorship, and exploration of post-secondary options.

The arts will be a focus as well. According to Alfredo I. Velasquez, Santa Cruz County Schools Superintendent, arts funding has been especially difficult to obtain in recent years. One highlight of the arts funding will be 43 concerts over the three years, both for and by students, throughout the County. 

Other benefits from the grant will emerge as planning moves along in identified areas, including technology, STEM, early literacy, and physical and behavioral health. Patagonia Superintendent Kenny Hayes looks forward to the process. “Our County Superintendent’s office does a great job of supporting education,” he said.

Arizona consistently ranks between 47th and 51st in per-pupil spending, according to US Census data. This grant comes from the Arizona Department of Education’s Elementary and Secondary School Relief program, made up of monies left over in the year’s budget. According to Velasquez, this grant meets “a tapestry of objectives and is everything that an educational community would dream of happening.”