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Superintendent's News

Posted: March 1, 2024

Our TOPS Model Schools Will be Continuing Into Next Year

In his weekly message, Superintendent Scott Elder discusses the work underway to preserve programs making a difference for students.

A classroom at Pajarito Elementary School.

A classroom at Pajarito Elementary School.

Happy Friday!

A few weeks ago, I delved into the budget process now underway and mentioned the fact that the federal pandemic relief funds we’ve relied on for the last few years will be going away.

It’s a big deal because APS received several hundred million in pandemic relief funds, and we’ve used that money to pay for everything from expanded tutoring and professional development opportunities for teachers and principals to our new emergency alert system and even our Transformational Opportunity Pilot Schools.

To give you an idea of the magnitude of the impact, our district’s total budget for the current fiscal year is $2.167 billion. Our budget office is projecting that next year’s overall budget will drop to $1.9 billion, due in large part to the pandemic relief funds going away.

As I previously mentioned, we knew these funds were temporary, so we tried to avoid spending the one-time money on recurring expenses. Nevertheless, our district will have to make some tough calls in the coming weeks and months and decide what to absorb into our regular budget and what programs we simply can’t afford to continue.

Those evaluations are already happening, and I’m happy to say that one of the programs that will continue is TOPS, although there will be changes next year. TOP schools were informed a few weeks ago that they would be allowed to continue with the model if they wanted to.

As you know, we started the TOPS model as a way to help students in struggling schools. We felt that increasing instructional time for students would lead to better student outcomes, so TOP schools lengthened their school days and calendars.

We initially expected we would have to end the TOPS model after this year because we were using ESSER funds to pay for it. But we met with our finance folks and figured out a way to keep it for next year. We’re able to do that by making adjustments to the model and utilizing fund balance.

So what will TOP schools look like next year?

  • While TOP schools have additional instructional days this year, next school year they will have the same number of days in the classroom as all other elementary schools.
  • TOP schools will continue to have longer school days.
  • Schools interested in continuing with transformational coaches, Genius Hour supplies, and funding to support teachers interested in pursuing their National Board Certification will need to use their At-Risk and Family Income Index funds to cover these expenses.

We believe in the TOPS model. As Associate Superintendent Gene Saavedra noted in a memo to TOPS principals, the model enhances student learning and provides valuable opportunities for personalized instruction, targeted interventions, academic enrichment, and teacher professional growth.

It’s a good program, and I’m happy that it will be continuing, at least for another year.

As I mentioned, APS will have some big decisions to make as the district builds its budget for the coming year. You can be a part of that process by telling us what we should be prioritizing. So take a few minutes to fill out the APS budget survey.

Have a great weekend!