September 25, 2020
Home of the Falcons!
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Falcon Focus
Happy Friday Falcon Families & Staff! 

We are excited to present our bi-monthly Principal's Falcon Focus. Twice a month we will send out not only a message from our Superintendent but also a summary of events from the Principals from all three schools. Please read all the way through to hear about all the great things going on in our district.

A Message from the Superintendent

As we end the third week of the hybrid learning schedule, we are looking forward to opening schools for our students for full time in-person learning after fall break on October 19th. We will have a detailed plan for you to follow for full time in-person learning by Friday, October 2nd. Please look for this information on the district website, your email, and links on Facebook. 

Driving this decision is the improvement of our metrics on the Maricopa County Department of Public Health dashboard indicating that we meet the metrics in two of the three areas with improvement of the cases per 100,000 persons. We have improved in all three categories over the past three weeks. We will continue to follow the mask mandate and all other recommended precautions until further notice by Maricopa County. 

Please be sure to fill out the Parent/Family Survey. You need to fill out one per child attending FHUSD. This will help us in our planning for staff assignments. The deadline for the survey is September 29th. If you've already filled this out, you do not need to do so again.

Thank you for your patience, kindness, and flexibility as we continue to maneuver this new landscape of learning.

Kelly Glass
McDowell Mountain Elementary School

We’re almost at the end of the first quarter of the 2020-2021 school year and we appreciate everything that students, parents, and staff having been doing since the first day of school! Below are the most recent updates on various aspects of our K-3 hybrid learning model and what’s ahead with the end of our first quarter.

K-3 Hybrid Learning Model Rules, Expectations, and Procedures

We really appreciate how well students, parents, and staff have been following all of our new rules, expectations, and procedures! Our temperature checks and symptom questions have been going well at student arrival. Students have access to hand sanitizer stations and/or sinks for handwashing throughout the building to use upon arrival; before/after class or individual bathroom breaks; and before/after lunches and recesses. When traveling individually or as a class throughout the building, students stay on one set of hallway carpet stars so that they’re going in the same direction.  

Students and staff wear face coverings/masks in their classrooms and throughout the building, but there are several opportunities for mask breaks: in class, whether individually or as a class; during recesses outside; and during lunch in the cafeteria. For mask breaks, students sanitize or wash their hands, put their masks in individual brown paper bags, and maintain social distance.

Each grade level has their own recess and lunch times like we have had in the past. We have slowly built up to and revised our recess play options as students have mastered the procedures. Our before/after lunch recesses now include options for running around the field, walking the Falcon Trail, playing in the sand, bringing toys to play with individually, playing kick-only soccer, and using the swings that are disinfected between recesses. We’re working on a plan with the goal to start September 28 where we’ll be able to efficiently disinfect the big playground equipment so that classes will get to use it daily through class rotations during the grade level recesses before or after lunch.
As stated already, MMES students, parents, and staff are doing a really amazing job with these new rules, expectations and procedures!

Constitution Day Assembly and Student Awards

On September 17, MMES celebrated Constitution Day and the Character Counts trait of Citizenship with our virtual assembly. Students watched the video in class, then we posted it on our school Facebook page for parents and the community. Students learned more about the Constitution, the Character Counts trait of Citizenship, and what it means to be a Falcon. Then we announced the names of our Citizenship award winners, one from each class. We will post their photos with their certificates on Facebook soon.  

Whether online, at school, or both, everyone is doing such a great job with Citizenship at MMES, so it was a really difficult decision for our teachers to choose one student from each class who have been consistently demonstrating the trait of Citizenship! We look forward to awarding our other Character Counts traits throughout the school year including Caring, Respect, Responsibility, Trustworthiness, and Fairness. On September 17, we presented the top Citizenship award for each class to these 19 students:

  • 3rd Grade: Jonah Maroon, Abigail Nobile, Trenton Pameditis, and Zoey Soto
  • 2nd Grade: Kenzie Adkins, Phillip Forsdal, Nicolas Mora, and Hannah Slodownik
  • 1st Grade: Anna-Claire Ebner, Julianna Grimland, Rygel Johns, and Travis Ostlund
  • Kindergarten: Dallas Bead, Mila Boden, Penny Espinoza, and Joseph Walters
  • Preschool: Castle Baggett, Mason Burton, and Geraldine Ontiveros

We have also awarded two sets of Kiwanis Terrific Kids awards so far. Terrific Kids is a weekly award with one student from each grade K-3 earning a certificate and prizes sponsored by the Fountain Hills Noon Kiwanis Club. TERRIFIC stands for Thoughtful, Enthusiastic, Respectful, Responsible, Inclusive, Friendly, Inquisitive, and Capable. Congratulations to the following Terrific Kids:

  • Week of September 7-11: Reed Henslin, Kindergarten; Nahla Gamboa, 1st Grade; Olivia Hiller, 2nd Grade; and Scarlett Grieco, 3rd Grade
  • Week of September 14-18: Alexander McDonald, Kindergarten; Paisley Kirkeide, 1st Grade; Olivia Murchinson, 2nd Grade; and Alison Cruz-Lopez, 3rd Grade

First Quarter Grades and Report Cards

The first quarter ends on October 9, fall break is October 12-16, and school resumes on October 19. At MMES for K-3, we mainly use standards-based grades for students’ report cards at the end of each quarter. Standards-based grades identify what students know or are able to do and how they’re progressing within a subject or area of learning. Grades are reported on a 1-4 scale or using letters such as “S” for Satisfactory. We also usually use A-F letter grades for third grade, but we will not be this first quarter. For all grades K-3, we will only be reporting on the standards that were taught during the first quarter.

We are understanding and supportive of our families who have been experiencing technical difficulties that may have prevented students from attending class regularly and/or completing work consistently. We want to be as flexible as possible and will contact you if we are finding that we do not have enough information to fairly determine first quarter grades and we will talk about how we can work with you during the next two weeks. Then during the week of October 5-9, students will receive their report cards and we will hold virtual parent/teacher conferences.

Parent/Teacher Conferences

We have not yet set the final schedule for virtual parent/teacher conferences, but we do know that we’ll have half-days with student dismissal at 12:30 on both Thursday, October 8 and Friday, October 9 for parent/teacher conferences. Next week, you’ll receive information for scheduling conferences with your children’s teachers that will include afternoon and evening options.

Thanks again for all that you’ve been doing this quarter. We love our MMES A+ Falcon Family!

Valerie Dehombreux
McDowell Mountain Elementary School

Fountain Hills Middle School

Wow, what a first quarter! It is hard to believe we are nearing the end of the first 9 weeks of school. I am so proud to tell people I am the principal of this great school. I want to thank the staff for their tireless work over multiple platforms delivering a quality educational experience to our students. I want to thank the students for their efforts this quarter and being willing to embrace a new way of doing school. Finally, I want to thank you, the parents for partnering with us this school year. We are off to a great start and none of it would be possible without your support. Here are two important areas of focus for our school as we make our way towards fall break.

FHMS Fall Conference

I wanted to reach out with some information about our Fall Conferences here at Fountain Hills Middle School. Since this has been a different year, we are going to keep rolling with the theme, and yes, conferences are going to look and feel different as well. This year, our conferences will be virtual, and we will be sending invites to families of students who the team of teachers would like to talk with about student progress through the first quarter. I know in the past, we have run more of an arena style conference, but that is not possible at this time.  For students the team has determined a conference is not necessary will still receive communication from their teachers about their progress as well, but will not need to meet virtually during the conference time. 

Teachers will send out their invites along with a link to Sign Up Genius which will allow parents to select a slot for a 10-minute conference with the requesting teacher. 

I know as a building leader, I would love to have the halls filled with parents and students attending conferences with their teachers, but that is just not possible with our current state. If you are requesting a different time to work for your family, you will need to schedule that with your student’s teacher after we return from fall break.


We are coming up on the end of the quarter which means our first grading period will be coming to an end on October 9th. I know there has been communication sent already, but it is important to make sure all have read through it.

I would strongly encourage your student to have conversations with their teachers over the final 3 weeks about assignments that are missing or that are coming up.  We have a built in Academic Strategies time every day where these conversations can take place. If your student is missing work from Quarter 1, they have 3 weeks to make those assignments up for their teachers. As a staff, we are on the same page with this and will update the grades as assignments come in. Once we hit the end of the Quarter, we will not accept missing work for Quarter 1.

Habits of Scholar (Work Habits)

Talking with teachers, work habits are a major struggle for our school right now. Things like work completion, being attentive in class (in-person and virtually), and being prepared for each class each day.  We have way too many students taking liberties with logging in and out when they want and controlling themselves in the chat. This comes down to attitude and effort. I love this quote, “If you don’t have time to do it right the first time, when do you have time to do it over?” Please embrace the gift of struggle and encourage your student to complete all of their assignments to the best of their ability. Please encourage them to embrace our learning format both in-person and virtually. I know there have been struggles and bumps, but at this point, we all know what is expected and our current learning system is not an excuse or a crutch. We are building sturdy human beings for a not-so-sturdy world right now and part of that is being resilient when things are a struggle. Strong work habits are transferable from class to class and grade to grade. 

I know this has been a challenging time as we have navigated the many challenges of 1st quarter. I want to encourage students to finish strong and feel good about going into 2nd quarter after Fall Break. The beauty of our grading system is everyone gets to start fresh each quarter. If a student fell a bit short of their goals for quarter 1, we have a brand new 9 weeks to get after it and achieve the marks they are looking for.  

Jeff Markle
Fountain Hills Middle School

Fountain Hills High School
It’s hard to believe that the first quarter of the school year is coming to an end. Our staff here at FHHS has really enjoyed having our students back on campus! It’s been great having their energy back inside the classrooms.
These first months of school have been extremely busy!
Our staff has done an amazing job developing and delivering lessons both in
person and virtually. Our teachers may have made this seem like an easy task
but let me assure you, it has been no small feat. They have spent countless
hours researching new techniques and looking at best practices in order to provide
the best level of education possible. We feel fortunate to have such dedicated
teachers and staff members!
Our custodial staff has been very busy to ensure that
every square inch of our campus is clean and sanitized. They were able to
install numerous hand sanitizing stations throughout every building.
Additionally, they distributed the necessary cleaning supplies to all of our
teachers to assist them in ensuring their rooms would stay clean. Their efforts
have made it possible for students to return to campus safely.
The fall sports season is underway! The excitement of
having athletics back is fantastic! Our cross country and volleyball teams have
already had their first competitions. The football and swim teams will be
participating in their first competitions soon with our first football game on
Friday, October 2nd at home. We are currently finalizing a plan to allow our
fans to attend home events. The policies and guidelines for attending home
events will be shared very soon. Please be sure to look for this information
through email, the school website, or on our Facebook page.
One additional service that we are providing this year
to students is breakfast. This is new for this year so students may not be
aware. Breakfast will be served in the cafeteria each morning beginning at
7:10am. Any student who would like to grab a bite to eat prior to classes
beginning may do so.
To our students, you have been amazing dealing with
the transition back to in-person learning! During the class meetings that we
hosted, many different procedures and guidelines were shared with you related
to safety. You have done a tremendous job at adapting to these changes and
following the procedures outlined for you. We can’t thank you enough for your
Lastly, thank you for the patience, positivity, and
kindness as we continue to work through a very challenging and unique
time.  We all know and understand the difficulty and inconvenience this
poses for many.  We want to make sure that everyone comes to school and
works in a healthy environment.  We will continue to share any new
information through email, Facebook and the FHHS website. 

Kris Alexander
Fountain Hills High School

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