Ronald Reagan Fundamental School first began as a pilot project and “alternative” or “magnet” school within the Crane Elementary School District. The pilot project began in the school year of 1983-84, with principal, Barry Sutter. The program consisted of only six classrooms, first through sixth grade, and was housed on the east side of the H.L. Suverkrup campus. The following year, Scott Jackson became the principal when the permanent building on 16th Street was opened.

The magnet school concept for a “Back to Basics” curriculum was the vision and conceptsupported and promoted by the administration. The program was modeled after an alternative school in Mesa, called Ben Franklin. A team of parents, teachers, and administrators toured several magnet programs throughout Arizona and California to develop their own philosophy and curriculum.

The pilot program curriculum was basic, fundamental, and clearly defined. The teachers were to follow the Spalding reading, writing, and spelling method precisely, read good literature with the students, study American history, drill the basic math facts, focus on recitation of poetry, and regularly attend the flag raising ceremonies each Friday after regularly practicing patriotic songs. A strict dress code was enforced. These practices were continued when the permanent facility opened. During the first two years, students and teachers ate lunch together in the classrooms after recess, without chocolate milk being allowed. After the second year in the new facility, the students ate in the cafeteria but needed to bring their own lunches. The teachers were scheduled to have “blocked planning” time, to allow for collaboration, and the beginning of each school year started with teachers making “home visits” of every family on their class list. The last year of home visits were paid for by the RRFS PTA because of district budget constraints.

Parental involvement was expected and encouraged. In order for parents to enroll their children in the program, they needed to sign a parental agreement each year to demonstrate their understanding and support of the curriculum, roles, and philosophy which were established. As another way of demonstrating their support of the school, the parents were required to provide their own transportation for their children to and from school. An after school enrichment program, run entirely by parents, was established in 1984 but was difficult to maintain over the years.

As the years passed, many changes occurred at Ronald Reagan Fundamental School, including the administration. Jack McLeod became the principal in 1989 and remained until 1997. Deb Johnson has been the principal since that time, with Janet Shields as the assistant principal. A satellite lunch program was soon established to offer students the same variety that was available in other Crane Schools, the flag raising ceremonies have moved from the outside to the inside, students have been given recesses, special education and counseling services have been provided and become an integral part of the program, home visits have been discontinued due to budget constraints, and instruction has become more consistent with the research about effective schools.

The parents at RRFS worked to maintain several positions on the Crane Governing Board in its early years to protect the belief and existence of their program. The school and philosophy are now well established in the community with broad parental support.

The Jennifer Wilson Track, which is located behind Ronald Reagan School, exists as a memorial for Jennifer Wilson, a former student who was brutally murdered in Flagstaff in the summer of 1988.

Through a combination of local general obligation bond funds and state funding, an additional six classrooms were added to the facility in 1999. This permitted Reagan School to leave the multi- track calendar.
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