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March 29, 2020 | www.santansun.com

Relentlessly local coverage of Southern Chandler

An edition of the East Valley Tribune

Schools scramble to teach kids at home SANTAN SUN NEWS STAFF

Chandler Unified educators have spent the last couple weeks scrambling to develop its curriculum online as students are expected to remain home until at least April 10. By the time the Chandler Unified School District’s two-week spring break ended on March 23, administrators were in the process of surveying families on what type of technology students have access to at home. The district had already emailed parents with a list of free educational websites to keep students occupied during the first week of school closures. Administrators were meeting around the clock, according to CUSD spokesman

Terry Locke, to figure out how to best serve students during this pandemic. Superintendent Camille Casteel assured the district's Governing Board last week her staff was working to have a system in place by this week. "I understand how some of our parents are very concerned that we haven't rolled everything out," Casteel told the board on Wednesday. "We are in the process of mobilizing over 5,000 employees to provide quality learning materials to 47,000 children and it's just taken us a few days to gear up to that level." Two of CUSD’s equally large neighbors – Mesa and Gilbert public schools – also were hoping to finally implement a distance-learning curriculum that approximated what students would have

been learning in the classroom had the governor not shut down schools. Meanwhile, Tempe Union High School District was already loaning laptops March 19 to needy students and preparing last week to role out distance-learning. Chandler and all other districts confront a myriad of issues. Among them are providing lessons that approximate their classroom curricula and training teachers to deliver them, helping kids from households that can’t afford a laptop or internet services, addressing the specialized services mandated for special needs students, feeding teens and children who depend on free and reduced-price lunches and grappling with the issues like the mandated days of instruction and whether noncertified

personnel, such as custodians and food service workers, can be paid what they would have earned for the 2019-20 school year even if it’s shortened. To a large degree, school districts are looking to the state Department of Education and the U.S. Department of Education for guidance, answers and directives on some questions reflecting the current crisis. “Not everything is in our control,” Kyrene Governing Board member Kevin Walsh said at the March 18 board meeting. “We don’t know whether the governor and the State Legislature will pass emergency legislation changing requirements about instructional See

SCHOOLS on page 6

Virus quickly reshaping Chandler housing market BY PAUL MARYNIAK Executive Editor

The abrupt economic downtown created by the COVID-19 pandemic is doing something to the Chandler housing market that hasn’t occurred for months – driving up the inventory of homes for sale. But with unemployment rising in the wake of the coronavirus, that likely won’t not be great news from anyone’s standpoint as sellers may not be finding as strong an appetite to buy a home as there had been only a matter of weeks ago. Fears of close physical contact with strangers shared by sellers and buyers – combined with potential buyers’ concerns for their own financial health – are throwing water, at least for a while, on what had been one of the nation’s hottest housing markets, experts say. The abruptness of the reversal in the market’s fortunes has been as stunning as that of the overall economic downtown, one expert noted. “The speed of change is as high as we have ever seen,” remarked the Cromford Report, which closely studies the Valley’s housing market. Until businesses started closing as the result of social-distancing directives over the last two weeks, the housing market posed a steadily rosier picture for sellers and a spiraling grimmer outlook for buyers. Home values continued to increase while available homes – particularly those around $250,000 to $300,000 – were nonexistent in some ZIP codes, including Chandler’s. But now, the Cromford Report sees a different picture emerging. The early warning signs that the COVID-19 pandemic would impact the housing market came during the first

week of March, when Cromford predicted that high-dollar house sales would begin to ebb. It said in early March that while transactions for homes at prices of $1 million or more had increased in February by 56 percent over February 2019, the trend was likely to hit a wall. “With the recent negative developments in the markets for stocks and commodities, we would anticipate the demand for homes over $1,000,000 to be less impressive when we look at numbers for the next few months,” it said. Meanwhile, buyers of more modest means found greater frustration as the month began: data for February showed closings on homes up to $250,000 were down almost 19 percent from February 2019. Sales of homes between $250,000 and $500,000 increased last month by 26.5 percent over February 2019 while closings on homes between $500,000 and $1 million were up 26.5 percent, Cromford said. The bottom line, it added: “The supply situation is even more extreme than last month. Rapidly rising prices have done little to dampen demand.” Conversely, it said, “sellers are still gaining negotiation power in 14 out of 17” communities – including Chandler. But what a difference a pandemic makes. Cromford last week was far more pessimistic about the Phoenix metro housing market overall – even as it reported that the available housing stock suddenly began increasing. For those who are still in the market, it said, the inventory of homes for sale was loosening – with the overall number of available houses increasing by 11 percent Valley-wide and more twice that in See

MARKET on page 11

Holga Oliva and Salomon Diaz assembled emergency food bags at the Chandler Care Center last week. (Pablo Robles/Staff Photographer)

Chandler nonprofits facing soaring needs, less revenue BY KEVIN REAGAN Staff Writer

The numbers at AZCEND’s food bank slowly started to rise as the COVID-19 pandemic worsened. The Chandler nonprofit typically gets 15 visitors on the third Saturday each month to pick up an emergency food box. But that number suddenly jumped to 66 on the morning of March 21, according to AZCEND CEO Trinity Donovan. Other days have seen a similar pattern, she said, as the organization’s food bank

sees more visitors than what it typically sees. A quarter of the people coming to AZCEND for food boxes have never visited before, Donovan added, suggesting demand could be growing in the community for basic necessities. Donovan is one of many nonprofit leaders in the Chandler and throughout the East Valley who have had to quickly respond to the complexities of the COVID-19 crisis. See

F E AT U R E STO R I E S City fears budget hit from virus . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .Community . . . . . Page 4 Chandler business woman invents board game . . . . . . . . . . .Business . . . . . . . Page 26 Chandler Girl Scouts earn their gold . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .Neighbors . . . . . Page 36 Bored indoors? Try the Grand Canyon . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .Arts . . . . . . . . . . . Page 40 Florida Italian Ice coming here . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .Eat . . . . . . . . . . . . Page 46

VOLUNTEERS on page 4 More Community . . . . . 01-25 Business . . . . . . . 26-30 Sports . . . . . . . . . . . . . .31 Opinion. . . . . . . . . . . . 33 Neighbors . . . . . .36-39 Arts . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 40 Faith . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .41 Directory . . . . . . .42-43 Classifieds . . . . . . . . . 44 Where to Eat. . . . . . . 46

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