Balsz School District's 200-day school year may be coming to an end

It arrived with much ballyhoo, but now, the 200-day school year at Phoenix's Balsz School District may be going away.

The school district may be returning to the typical 180-day school year, because there's not enough money and too much teacher turnover.

The 200-day school year program is now entering its ninth year in the Balsz School District in East Phoenix, which has 2,400 K-8 students in five schools. Starting next school year, however, the 200-day school year may end, because the district said it doesn't have the money to make it work.

In the beginning, the longer school year worked well, according to the district's superintendent.

"In our first few years, tremendous achievement," said Dr. Jeff Smith. "One was in top ten performing schools in the state one year."

The hard part, however, has been keeping this success going. A big part of the problem is this experiment requires teachers to work a lot more, and they are really not making a lot more money. The district said it pays most starting teachers about $38,100 a year, which is not enough to hang onto them, and with more turnover, student achievement has dropped off.

"What we found is per day, our teachers not paid as much as other similar districts," said Dr. Smith. "So difficult for our teachers to work a month longer and not make equivalent extra money for that work."

Now, Balsz School District administrators, teachers and parents will meet in the coming months to figure out whether to pull the plug on the longer school year, and some parents don't like that idea.

"For the people who work, I believe that is a problem," said Rosie Mesa, in Spanish.

"If it is due to expenses, it is kind of in-between, but it would upset me," said a parent who only wants to be identified as "Jazmine".

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