Gilbert Edition - October 2020

GILBERT EDITION

VOLUME 3, ISSUE 2  OCT. 21NOV. 17, 2020

ONLINE AT

Town considers establishing relations committee

IMPACTS

GOVERNMENT

DESERT SADDLERY

XJ’S CASA REYNOSO

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Pandemic fallout wreaks havoc with schools’ student counts

Enrollment volatility School ocials said the coronavirus pandemic has been responsible, at least in part, for the swings in enrollment they have seen from last school year to this one. Here is a look at the changes early in the school year from 2019-20.

GILBERT PUBLIC SCHOOLS

HIGLEY USD CHANDLER USD GILBERT CHARTER SCHOOLS

BY TOM BLODGETT

state would allow. “To me, the bottom line is we as par- ents know our children,” Couser told the governing board July 28. “We know what is best for them. We know what they desperately need right now. As a board, you know how this community feels. You asked us, and we spoke.” The sharp divide over how to return to school from the coronavirus pan- demic has made for diculties in planning and a fallout in enrollment, schools ocials said. Derivatives of CONTINUED ON 12

When Schools announced it would open schools to hybrid learning—part-time in per- son—Sept. 8 and full-time in-person learning Sept. 21, GPS parent Rebecca McHood pulled her kids out. Gilbert Public “We’re trying our hand at home- schooling and will re-enroll in GPS when it’s safe,” she said. However, Justalyn Couser, with three kids and a graduate from the dis- trict, fought hard to have GPS reopen to in-person instruction as soon as the

-2.7% Down 926 students

-1.15% Down 148 students

-5.35% Down 2,480 students

+3.41% Up 405 students

SOURCES: GILBERT PUBLIC SCHOOLS, HIGLEY USD, CHANDLER USD, LOCAL CHARTER SCHOOLS COMMUNITY IMPACT NEWSPAPER

GILBERT’S LOW UNEMPLOYMENT

Gilbert unemployment nearly cut in half, but labor force declining

BY TOM BLODGETT

ranked Gilbert as the second best recovery in the nation in a study of cities whose August unemploy- ment rates are bouncing back the most during the pandemic. Additionally, Gilbert’s unemployment rate is low- est among Maricopa County municipalities with a population of more than 15,000 people, according to Arizona Commerce Authority data. However, the authority’s data shows that with the low unemployment rate has come a decrease

While Gilbert’s unemployment rate remains higher than before the pandemic, it stood better than the national and state rates for August 2020.

Gilbert’s unemployment rate fell to 4.5% in August, the lowest it has been since March at the start of the coronavirus pandemic. That represents a drop of 3.8 points from the previous month and a 45.78% improvement in one month. “That’s a good place to be,” Gilbert Economic Development Director Dan Henderson said. Data shows Gilbert’s August unemployment is lower than other municipalities in the county and in the nation. Personal nance website WalletHub

AUGUST 2020 UNEMPLOYMENT

Gilbert 4.5%

USA 8.4%

Arizona 5.9%

SOURCES: U.S. BUREAU OF LABOR STATISTICS, ARIZONA COMMERCE AUTHORITYCOMMUNITY IMPACT NEWSPAPER

CONTINUED ON 15

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THIS ISSUE

CONTENTS IMPACTS

HIGHLIGHTS FROMTHISMONTH

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Now Open, Coming Soon &more TRANSPORTATION

MARKET TEAM EDITOR Tom Blodgett GRAPHIC DESIGNER Isabella Short ACCOUNT EXECUTIVE Michelle Gavagan

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FROMAMY: In one of our cover stories, we dive into Gilbert’s unemployment journey since COVID-19 aected the economy locally and worldwide. The numbers show an impressive rebound in Gilbert in a short amount of time. Our reporting outlines the factors that aect this trend. Please remember to support local now more than ever. Amy Ellsworth, PUBLISHER

Local road projects

METRO LEADERSHIP PUBLISHER Amy Ellsworth,

aellsworth@communityimpact.com MANAGING EDITOR Matt Stephens ART PRODUCTIONMANAGER Aubrey Galloway CORPORATE LEADERSHIP PUBLISHERS AND FOUNDERS John and Jennifer Garrett GROUP PUBLISHER Traci Rodriguez EXECUTIVE EDITOR Joe Warner CREATIVE DIRECTOR Derek Sullivan SALES DIRECTOR Tess Coverman WHOWE ARE

FROMTOM: Imagine planning for a school year like this: Everyone is angry. You don’t know when you can open. You don’t know how many students or teachers want online school or to do in-person instruction. You don’t even know how many students are going to show up. Our front- page story looks at COVID-19’s eect on enrollments. Tom Blodgett, EDITOR

GOVERNMENT

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Town considers community relations committee TOWNAND EDUCATION Gilbert and local school district news

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THIS ISSUE BY THE NUMBERS

New businesses 6

Saddles for sale in original Desert Saddlery 13

Reynoso family- owned restaurants 13

Road projects 4

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stay informed and keep businesses thriving. COMMUNITYIMPACT.COMPATRON CONTACT US 610 N. Gilbert Road, Ste. 205, Gilbert, AZ 85234 • 4804824880 PRESS RELEASES gilnews@communityimpact.com SUBSCRIPTIONS communityimpact.com/subscriptions © 2020 Community Impact Newspaper Co. All Rights Reserved. No reproduction of any portion of this issue is allowed without written permission from the publisher.

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GILBERT EDITION • OCTOBER 2020

IMPACTS

Businesses that have recently opened or are coming soon, relocating or expanding

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W. VAUGHN AVE.

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GILBERT

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Backyard Taco

JP’s Comedy Club

E. WARNER RD.

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TOM BLODGETT/COMMUNITY IMPACT NEWSPAPER

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pop culture-themed restaurant serves specialty burgers, chicken, fish and chips, steak sandwiches and exotic desserts. The original location is in Globe. 480-316-0882. http://nurdberger.com 6 Tacos Tijuana Taqueria opened a location at 51 S. McQueen Road, Gilbert, on Sept. 4. The restaurant serves street tacos on homemade tortillas. 480-653- 6135. https://tacostijuanaaz.com COMING SOON 7 D1 Training anticipates opening Oct. 26 at 8490 S. Power Road, Ste. 109, Gilbert. It has five core programs for different ages, each 54 minutes long, that come in five parts: dynamic war- mups, performance, strength, core and conditioning, and cool-down stretching. 480-597-9483. www.d1training.com/ gilbert-az 8 Eegee’s has submitted plans to the town of Gilbert to open a location at 3535 E. Baseline Road, Gilbert. The Tuc- son-based chain of submarine sandwich shops known for its frozen fruit drink, called an Eegee, has not announced an opening date. The plan to redo the exterior of an Arby’s and add a canopy to the drive-thru is in first design review. https://eegees.com 9 Hair of the Dog Wine Bar & Tap Room anticipates opening in early 2021 at 3133 S. Lindsay Road, Ste. 107, Gilbert. The establishment will be open indoors to dogs and will serve locally made beverages and snacks. https://hairofthedoggilbert.com 10 Press Coffee will open at The Re- serve at San Tan, 355 E. Germann Road,

Gilbert, on Nov. 6. The ninth location in the Valley of the specialty coffee and coffee-based drinks shop will be in a 7,000-square-foot space with confer- ence areas plus traditional cafe seating near the coffee bar. The menu also will include breakfast sandwiches, burritos, avocado toasts and Press original shak- ers. It also sells whole beans and offers monthly coffee bean subscriptions that can be shipped anywhere in the U.S. 480-466-7358. https://presscoffee.com RELOCATIONS 11 2J Antennas USA Corporation moved its operations from San Diego to Gilbert, opening May 7 at 2020 W. Guadalupe Road, Ste. 8, Gilbert. The company is a global supplier of antenna solutions. 480-284-5522. www.2j-antennas.com ANNIVERSARIES 12 Gilbert Physical Medicine at 725 W. Elliot Road, Ste. 115, Gilbert, celebrated 25 years in business Oct. 5. Alisa Was- serman started the business in 1995 as Gilbert Family Chiropractic at the south- east corner of Gilbert and Guadalupe roads; moved to its current location in 2005; and added a medical department, doubled its space and changed its name in 2012. Its services include chiropractic adjustments, regenerative medicine, spinal decompression, rapid-release muscle therapy, lifestyle advice, medical evaluations and diagnostics, integrative medicine and pain management, and more. 480-545-0000. www.gilbertphysicalmedicine.com

W. RAY RD.

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E. RIGGS RD.

E. HUNT HWY. NOWOPEN 1 Backyard Taco opened Sept. 21 at 2400 S. Gilbert Road, Chandler, across the Gilbert border. The restaurant marks the fourth location for the business, which serves a variety of tacos and other Mexican food. 480-809-6482. https://backyardtaco.com 2 Glow Midwifery opened Sept. 7 at 3530 S. Val Vista Drive, Ste. A111, Gilbert. Its services include pregnancy, birth and gynecological care, and women’s well- ness. 480-818-9530. www.glowmw.com

HUNT HWY. 3 JP’s Comedy Club opened Sept. 3 at 860 E. Warner Road, Gilbert. The club features live shows from Arizona come- dians and national touring entertainers, open microphone nights and comedy classes. www.jpscomedyclub.com 4 Lush opened Sept. 19 at 2162 E. Williams Field Road, Ste. 103, Gilbert. The store offers homemade cosmetics, including bath, hair and body products. 602-610-7135. www.lushusa.com 5 Nurdberger Café opened Sept. 14 at 235 E. Warner Road, Ste. 107, Gilbert. The

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Nurdberger Café

The Clever Koi

LOCAL HOT SPOT

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TOM BLODGETT/COMMUNITY IMPACT NEWSPAPER

ALEXA D’ANGELO/COMMUNITY IMPACT NEWSPAPER

RENDERING COURTESY SB2-VB

NAME CHANGES 13 The former Cuisine and Wine Bistro reopened Sept. 29 at 1422 W. Warner Road, Gilbert rebranded as B Gastrobar . The menu at the renovated restaurant features salads, burgers, sandwiches, macaroni and cheese, and other entrees. The Buschtetz family still operates a Cuisine and Wine Bistro in Chandler. 480-497-1422. http://bgastrobar.com NEWOWNERSHIP 14 AZ Tech Radiology at 4915 E. Base- line Road, Ste. 116, Gilbert, was pur- chased by RadNet Imaging Centers and renamed Arizona Diagnostic Radiology on Sept. 1. The center’s services include MRIs, CT scans, breast MRIs, ultrasounds, digital X-rays, digital mammography and

more. 480-354-9200. www.arizonadiag- nosticradiology.com/locations/gilbert 15 Coldfront Cryo has changed owner- ship and moved to 5229 S. Power Road, Ste. 104, Mesa, across the Gilbert border at Ray Road, on June 20. It offers cryo- therapy, the use of cold temperatures to promote muscle recovery and skin ton- ing. 480-440-0246. www.cfcryo.com RENOVATIONS 16 The Clever Koi reopened Oct. 9 in the Heritage Marketplace at 60 W. Vaughn Ave., Ste. 101, Gilbert. The Gil- bert location of the modern Asian restau- rant and craft cocktail bar closed Aug. 21, 2019, because of a kitchen fire. After the fire, it has undergone a renovation inside that features softer tones throughout. 480-306-4237. www.thecleverkoi.com

The developers of Verde at Cooley Station announced three new restaurants and a bar that will open at the development at Williams Field and Recker roads when it opens in the

with East Coast roots to include large servings of salads, pasta, Italian specialties and pizza. Crust’s signature pizza, the Rustica, will be delivered in an untraditional shape. Lasagna, Penne alla Vodka and Chicken Parmigiana are some of Crust’s signature dishes. It has locations in Chandler and Scottsdale. www.crustrestaurants.com Morning Ritual will oer brunch every day featuring craft cocktails and a mimosa bar served with a modern breakfast menu. The Ostrich Cocktail Bar will serve original cocktails, craft beer and wine. It has a location in the basement of Crust Simply Italian in Chandler. www.crustrestaurants.com/the-ostrich

fourth quarter of 2021. COMING SOON

Cook & Craft will be a modern American eatery serving locally sourced products and ingredients on its menu. The decor and atmosphere are meant to be casual. Diners will also nd vegan, vegetarian and gluten-free options throughout the menu. Verde will be the Scottsdale restaurant’s second location. https://cookandcraftaz.com Crust Simply Italian will have a menu

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GILBERT EDITION • OCTOBER 2020

TRANSPORTATIONUPDATES 60

COMPILED BY TOM BLODGETT

E. BASELINE RD.

ONGOING PROJECTS 1 Germann Road: Val Vista Drive to Mustang Drive Germann Road will be improved to major arterial roadway standards, including six lanes, a raised median, sidewalks, bike lanes, streetlights, traffic signals and improvements to the bridge over the Eastern Canal. The project will also include Lindsay Road improvements between Loop 202-Santan Freeway and a quarter-mile south of Germann. Status: Construction began in October on the west side of Lindsay. Timeline: October 2020-January 2022 Cost: $27.96 million Funding sources: town bonds and funds, Maricopa Asso- ciation of Governments, developer contributions 2 Recker Road: Ray Road to Loop 202 improvements The town continues work on Recker Road improvements to minor arterial road standards, including four lanes, a raised median, landscaping, bike lanes, sidewalks and streetlights. The project includes the relocation of power lines and a raised/landscaped median from Ray Road to Loop 202-SanTan Freeway. Status: Construction is approximately 50% complete but delayed four to six weeks because of Salt River Project power pole relocations. Traffic is shifted to one lane in each direction on the east side of the street. Timeline: January 2020-March 2021 Cost: $3.03 million Funding sources: town of Gilbert bonds, funds; developer contributions

ALL INFORMATION ON THIS PAGE WAS UPDATED AS OF OCT. 15. NEWS OR QUESTIONS ABOUT THESE OR OTHER LOCAL TRANSPORTATION PROJECTS? EMAIL US AT GILNEWS@COMMUNITYIMPACT.COM. Status: Medians are being constructed with conduit work almost complete. Left turns will be restricted every- where except at East Raleigh Bay Drive. Traffic will re- main on the asphalt base course until the final pavement is put down. Timeline: March-November Cost: $6.32 million Funding source: town bonds and funds 3 Val Vista Drive widening The town is widening Val Vista Drive from Appleby Road—about where Val Vista narrows to one lane in each direction—to Riggs Road. The result will be a six-lane section from Ocotillo Road to Merlot Street with a raised landscaped median, bike lanes, sidewalks and street- lights. Traffic signals will be installed at Appleby, Ocotillo and Chandler Heights roads. Status: Base paving has started for the curb lane south of Chandler Heights. The project is 30% complete. Timeline: March 2020-August 2021 Cost: $25.96 million Funding sources: town bonds and funds and Maricopa Association of Governments 4 Val Vista Drive reconstruction The town is reconstructing deteriorated asphalt pavement on Val Vista Drive from Baseline Road to Guadalupe Road, adding bike lanes, updating landscaping in the median and replacing three signs to bring them to current standards with flashing left turns.

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COMMUNITY IMPACT NEWSPAPER • COMMUNITYIMPACT.COM

GOVERNMENT Town Council weighs starting a community relations committee

“I’MALWAYS ABOUT BUILDING BRIDGES AMONG COMMUNITIES AND CULTURES ...”

FORMER TOWN COUNCIL CANDIDATE BUS OBAYOMI

More than racialmatters While the committee could be established in part as a result of the protests and the town’s own initiatives to address racial justice, some council members envision the committee’s scope to be broader and more exible than only racial justice. Vice Mayor Yung Koprowski suggested the committee could be involved in areas such as outreach with police or with issues like the new ambulance service, open data and community education on performance measures, or community events. “I’m interested to see what sta comes back with in terms of what can fall within this committee to make it very meaningful and long lasting, hav- ing the continual checkpoints,” she said. “Maybe it’s not a committee that meets formally every month; maybe it is less often but can still provide that avenue and very specic communi- cation conduit to our residents for a variety of issues.” Town initiative Former Gilbert Mayor Jenn Daniels on June 2 called on ocials and town members to listen to what was being said about racial justice in the wake of the death of George Floyd, a Black man who died while in Minneapolis police custody May 25, sparking nationwide protests. Daniels then created the “Listen. Learn. Act. Amplify.” initiative. The plan started with the creation of Gilbert’s Listening Spaces, a series of forums that asked

BY TOM BLODGETT

Gilbert Town Council is consider- ing forming a community relations committee that could address racial and other issues in town. On council direction, sta is researching ways to develop a type of such committee with plans to bring it back to council for further discussion, spokesperson Jennifer Harrison said. A committee would be a successor to the Gilbert Human Relations Com- mission, which the town dissolved in 2017, but council members asked its scope to be better dened, a reason some cited for the HRC’s ultimate failure. The rst council discussions took place Sept. 15, the same night a racial justice protest was held outside Municipal Building I, where council chambers are. Several protesters also condemned the council during public comment for failing to act or make an anti-racism statement in the wake of competing Thursday night protests at the corner of Gilbert and Warner roads near town hall. Black Lives Matter and a group that started as a Blue Lives Matter gather- ing have been protesting from oppo- site corners at the intersection, police said, but the protests boiled over into confrontations in late August. Black Lives Matter members told council their group endured racist taunts, threats and even had some members assaulted Aug. 20, a night when two people were arrested. The size of the Thursday protests has been dwindling since then, ocials said.

A Black Lives Matter protester faces o across Warner Road from President Donald Trump supporters Oct. 1, part of a series of protests. (Tom Blodgett/Community Impact Newspaper)

the community to share their stories, experiences and feedback with police ocers, town leadership and local school districts. However, public commenters at the Sept. 15 meeting said the forums have been ineective in bringing about change and keeping local people of color safe. Koprowski, however, said she found the perspectives she heard from the session useful and hopes they can continue through the committee. On Aug. 11, the same day that Dan- iels resigned as mayor, Bus Obayomi, who had lost an election bid to Town Council the previous week, spoke during public comment and asked council to bring back the HRC.

Since then, Obayomi has oered his own suggestions to council members and Town Manager Patrick Banger. He endorses the idea of the new committee. Obayomi said he hopes the commit- tee also would go beyond just racial issues. His own proposal called for the committee to address the protests but also outreach on community issues such as the ambulances or teen sui- cide and advancements that could, for example, support small businesses. “This is something I’m passionate about,” Obayomi said. “I’m always about building bridges among com- munities and cultures and within the town as well. [It can be] a voice for the underserved, whoever they are.”

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GILBERT EDITION • OCTOBER 2020

TOWN&EDUCATION

COMPILED BY TOM BLODGETT & ALEXA D’ANGELO

News from Gilbert, Gilbert Public Schools, Higley USD & Chandler USD

GILBERTPUBLIC SCHOOLS The average salary for teachers in the district rose 4.3% in scal year 2019-20, district ocials said. The average salary for the year was $52,447, an increase of $2,148 from FY 2018-19. The data was presented when GPS Finance Director Jackie Mattinen reviewed the annual nancial report for the governing board Oct. 13. HIGLEYUSD The governing board voted 5-0 Sept. 23 to join a class-action lawsuit against the e-cigarette manufacturer Juul Labs charging deceptive marketing practices targeting children. The lawsuit hopes to recover damages to school districts when they were forced to implement anti-vaping strategies on their campuses. CHANDLERUSD The governing board authorized the purchase of thousands of Chromebooks and desktop computers Sept. 23 for use across the district. District sta expected total expenditures to be about $4.17 million. SCHOOL HIGHLIGHTS Gilbert Town Council Nov. 10, 6:30 p.m. 50 E. Civic Center Drive, Gilbert 480-503-6871 • www.gilbertaz.gov Gilbert Public Schools Board Oct. 27, 6 p.m. Nov. 4, 17, 6 p.m. 140 S. Gilbert Road, Gilbert 480-497-3300 www.gilbertschools.net Higley USD Board Oct. 21, 5 p.m. Nov. 4, 18, 5 p.m. 2935 S. Recker Road, Gilbert 480-279-7000 • www.husd.org Chandler USD Board MEETINGSWE COVER

Coronavirus pandemic changes county elections look, ocials say

VOTING CENTERS IN GILBERT Southeast Valley Regional Library 775 N. Greeneld Road, Gilbert Gilbert Community Center 130 N. Oak St., Gilbert First United Methodist Church 331 S. Cooper Road, Gilbert Gilbert Municipal Center* 50 E. Civic Center Drive, Gilbert McQueen Park Activity Center 510 N. Horne St., Gilbert Freestone Recreation Center 1141 E. Guadalupe Road, Gilbert Gateway Fellowship Church, SBC 60 N. Recker Road, Gilbert Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints Greeneld 3775 S. Greeneld Road, Gilbert Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints Ranch House 4170 S. Ranch House Parkway, Gilbert Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints Higley 1865 S. Higley Road, Gilbert San Tan Village (near theater) 2170 E. Williams Field Road, Ste. 106 *DRIVETHRU BALLOT DROP ONLY

MARICOPA COUNTY Due to mask mandates and social distancing eorts to halt the spread of the coronavirus, Maricopa County Elec- tions ocials said the Nov. 3 general election will look dierent this year; namely, there will be fewer voting centers across the county. “When considering an in-person voting option, we have to nd a loca- tion that is large enough to accom- modate for physical distancing,” said Megan Gilbertson, a spokesperson with Maricopa County Elections. “After March, we were re-evaluating what we could do to make sure voters are safe. Once we went through tra- ditional polling locations, we found very few would be large enough.” The town of Gilbert has 11 voting centers open Election Day, Nov. 3. Most also are open Nov. 2. The center

at Gateway Fellowship Church is open weekdays from Oct. 22, and the Gilbert Municipal Center will have a drop box open Oct. 24 and Oct. 31- Nov. 3. Any registered voter can go to any voting center to cast their ballot, according to Maricopa County Elections. The voting centers include churches, malls and large meeting spaces. Gilbertson said all centers are at least 1,500 square feet. “We were able to move locations into malls and larger convention centers and larger locations so voters could physically distance,” Gilbert- son said. “We were also able to add more check-in stations to get voters through the process more quickly.” Poll workers will wear masks, gloves and face shields to protect voters, Gilbertson said.

Board approves boundary changes for newhigh school

GILBERT The Arizona Court of Appeals Division I on Oct. 14 denied Laurin Hendrix’s appeal about when he can be seated to Gilbert Town Council without hearing oral arguments. As a result, Judge Daniel Kiley’s original ruling in Maricopa County Superior Court on Hendrix’s lawsuit stands. Hendrix will be allowed to join council Nov. 3. The appeals court accepted jurisdiction on Hendrix’s appeal and denied his requests for relief, which included immediate seating and all votes since Aug. 18 being vacated so Hendrix can participate, plus attorney’s fees. Appellate court rejects Hendrix argument on seat

CHANDLER USD The governing board unanimously approved on Oct. 14 high school attendance boundary changes for a new high school opening next year at Gilbert and Brooks Farm roads. The

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COMMUNITY IMPACT NEWSPAPER • COMMUNITYIMPACT.COM

Desert Saddlery carries simple saddles for newcomers to show saddles like this, which can run into the thousands of dollars.

BUSINESS FEATURE

Tomand Darlene Droske have beenmarried 47 years and in business 28 years, a testament, Tomsays, to Darlene’s ability to put upwith him.

PHOTOS BY TOM BLODGETTCOMMUNITY IMPACT NEWSPAPER

Desert Saddlery Running tack store for 28 years gives couple a good life on 10 acres T om Droske’s life is a series of things that have worked out. His family moved from North Dakota to Arizona when he was a teen, which he called the “best move ever.” He met his wife, Darlene, when she came from Oklahoma to attend Arizona State University, which at a time when Gilbert and Ray roads, the store’s location, were both two-lane roads. But Darlene said they have continually reinvested in the store, and now it is 1,500 square feet packed to rafters, not just with Western or English saddles, but bits, blankets, bridles and any other accessory a rider might need. BY TOM BLODGETT

COLLECTIBLES HELP BUSINESS

They credit customer service for their growth. Droske said they have customers come in not to buy, just to chat. He loves to give them a hard time, just in fun. “This is a recreation sport, for God’s sake,” he said. “Let’s have some fun with this.” The result is a loyal base. He marvels at the number of people who cross the Valley from Buckeye or Wickenburg to shop at his store rather than something closer to them. He even recently had some customers come in from San Antonio to shop at the store. Of the two, Darlene is more the horse rider, dating from her youth in Oklahoma. She keeps three horses at home. Droske said he knew all along he would have to ride horses to get her. “I wasn’t about to miss her,” he said. “And I got 10 acres of land to go along with it, so that ain’t all bad. That’s a good catch.”

he calls the “best thing that happened to me.” In 1985, the couple sold their Tempe home to move into a 10-acre horse property in Gilbert and eventually used a lump-sum payment from that home sale to buy a tack store and make it their own: Desert Saddlery. “Life is good,” he said. So good that at age 73 and after 28 years in business, Droske still looks forward to coming in to work and serving his customers. The Droskes have no plans to stop at this point. They gave up their jobs, Darlene at a title com- pany and Droske in real estate. Darlene only had one concern. “I just wanted to make sure that Tom was going to be committed to staying and working here instead of doing something else,” she said. The store had a modest start with just 13 saddles

In addition to all the horse riding inventory, the Droskes stock Breyer horses, collectible equestrian models that have been popular since the 1950s—with some becoming quite valuable. Tom estimates that as much as 10% of the store’s sales come from the model horses.

Desert Saddlery 1605 S. Gilbert Road,

E. RAY RD.

Ste. 101, Gilbert 480-899-7521

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GILBERT EDITION • OCTOBER 2020

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COMMUNITY IMPACT NEWSPAPER • COMMUNITYIMPACT.COM

DINING FEATURE

BY TOM BLODGETT

Charro Burro Xavier’sWay ($8.50) features a fresh our tortilla lled with red chili beef, green chili pork and refried beans, and is served with red sauce, green sauce and cheese melted on top.

Xavier and Alicia Reynoso met at Mesa High School and now operate XJ’s Casa Reynoso together. (Photos by Tom Blodgett/ Community Impact Newspaper)

XJ’s Casa Reynoso 1661 S. Val Vista Drive, Ste. 109, Gilbert 480-534-8403 https://xjscasareynoso.com Hours: Mon.-Sat. 11 a.m.-8 p.m., closed Sun. employee] was having a meal and he had his straw in the salsa,” Xavier said. “I go, ‘You missed the cup.’ He goes, ‘No, I didn’t.’” SALSA YOU CAN DRINK One customer favorite is the salsa, which co-owner Xavier Reynoso said is unique from others. How so? “Whatever spices I use in it,” he said with a grin. “It’s a secret.” The salsa is so popular he has seen customers, even employees, drink it. “I walked out one day, and [an

XJ’s Casa Reynoso Gilbert restaurant part of family tradition dating from 1938 W hen Xavier Reynoso Jr. opened his restaurant in Gilbert in October

Xavier started getting paid at his parents’ restaurant at 16, but the work started before then—some- where between age 12 and 14, learning recipes at his dad’s side. “My grandmother taught my dad,” he said. “My dad taught me. My mom knows some stu. My wife knows some stu, but it’s literally the recipes get passed down. There’s no book. It’s not written down. It should be, but it’s not.” Those recipes are the key to distinguishing themselves in something of a foodie town with no shortage of Mexican restaurants, Xavier said. “Being around for that many years—if anyone’s gone through Globe, either going to [Roosevelt] Lake or going up north, they’re going to stop at one of my family’s restaurants,” he said. “And they’re

going to see the dierence between what that kind of food is, the Sonoran-style made from scratch, to something else.” Sonoran style means our torti- llas with more beef and spices found in the Mexican state of Sonora. Xavier also brings in fresh Hatch chiles from New Mexico. Everything is still made from scratch. “We pride ourselves on our hands on the food at all times,” he said. “It’s always the family here. And that’s how it’s got to be.” Xavier and Alicia nally decided it was time for them to open their own restaurant a couple years ago in their town, Gilbert. “A lot of people said, ‘Good luck with working all day,’” Xavier said. “We want to do this. That’s what we did it for. We’re doing good. Gilbert is really a good community.”

2018 with his wife and high school sweetheart, Alicia, he was keeping up his family’s tradition. The Reynosos have been making Sonoran-style Mexican food in restaurants since three sisters, including Xavier’s great-grand- mother, opened a place in 1938 in the Globe-Miami area 70 miles east of Gilbert. The family now has three in that area. Xavier’s grandparents run a long- standing Casa Reynoso in Tempe, and his parents own Xavier’s Casa Reynoso in Mesa. Xavier counts 13 family-owned restaurants in Arizona, plus an uncle with a food truck. Xavier calls it “history repeating itself.”

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How enrollments have changed One of the rst important student count markers of the school year is the 40th day, which is used by districts for things such as school lunch funding and athletic classication. Here is a breakdown of where Gilbert districts and charter schools stood on their 40th day from 2019-20 to 2020-21. In some cases, the 40th day had not been reached when data was collected. DISTRICT SCHOOL 1ST DAY 40TH DAY 2019 40TH DAY 2020 40TH DAY Gilbert Public Schools Aug. 5 Sept. 30 34,254 33,328 -2.7% Higley USD July 21 Sept. 21 12,890 12,742 -1.15% Chandler USD Aug. 5 Sept. 30 46,338 43,858 -5.35% ALA Gilbert K-6 Aug. 17 Oct. 21 589 673 +14.26% ALA Gilbert North K-12 Aug. 17 Oct. 21 2,421 2,683 +10.60% ALA Gilbert South K-6 Aug. 17 Oct. 21 226 446 +97.35% Archway Arete K-5 Aug. 6 Oct. 2 545 547 +0.37% Arete Prep 6-12 Aug. 6 Oct. 2 554 558 +0.72% Benjamin Franklin Gilbert K-6 Aug. 3 Oct. 12 546 522 -4.4% Challenger Basic K-6 Aug. 4 Sept.30 282 338 +19.86% Desert Hills High School Aug. 7 Oct. 20 255 237 -7.06% Eduprize Gilbert 1-12 July 22 Sept. 16 1,760 1,617 -8.13% Gilbert Arts Academy K-8* Aug. 5 Oct. 1 171 190 +11.11% Leading Edge Gilbert Elementary Aug. 17 Oct. 19 198 245 +23.74% Leading Edge-Gilbert Early College 7-12 Aug. 17 Oct. 19 286 312 +9.09% CHANGE

programs have lost 268 students, with economic factors being a possi- ble reason, said Susan Borzych, the assessment and student information director for HUSD. Higley’s heavier losses in kindergar- ten are mirrored in the other districts. “We have heard from some parents that they are just waiting the year out, and then their child will begin at Gilbert [Public] Schools next year,” GPS Marketing and Communications Director Dawn Antestenis said. Conversely, secondary campus numbers are up. Borzych said that is particularly true at the 11th and 12th grade levels, although she said the district has not gured out why. At Chandler USD, Chief Financial Ocer Lana Berry said secondary enrollment is up and notes the district often sees a spike going from eighth to ninth grade with parents often choos- ing the more comprehensive district programs at that level. Overall, CUSD is down nearly 2,500 students from the 2019-20 school year. Pre-COVID-19, the district anticipated some growth, Berry said. CUSD’s slower, staggered reopening appears to be the reason, she said, cit- ing district surveys. “We did know in the very begin- ning that we were losing students to district schools that were reopening, charter schools that were reopening, private schools,” she said. “And some are going to strict homeschooling.” Some, although not all, charter schools are reporting increased enroll- ments. One is Val Vista Academy, up 17.61% from last year, but Principal Debbie Baca said she is not sure the reopening plan for the school, which has been growing for several years, is the reason. She did note the closing of another nearby charter school also had an eect on the enrollment. Val Vista Academy did wait to start the school year until Aug. 17, the date

CONTINUED FROM 1

enrollment determine state funding. The three districts that serve Gilbert all have seen drops in their 40th-day student counts. GPS, for one, bud- geted last spring with an estimated loss of about 400 students. But the losses thus far are even greater—about 900 students. Meanwhile, some local charter schools said they have seen mixed results on enrollment this fall. While there is still time for enroll- ment to stabilize before the 100-day mark, districts are preparing to make cuts to this year’s budgets and prepar- ing for a more austere 2021-22 budget, ocials said. Beyond funding, the uncertainty makes it dicult in other areas, such as stang and class sizes. “This COVID[-19] roller coaster that we’re all living—where it’s a high and a low, sometimes within two hours of one another—has proven to be very dicult for many of us, but we’re try- ing to roll with the punches and do our best for all involved the best way we can,” said Mum Martens, Higley USD human resources executive director. Enrollment shifting Through summer governing board meetings, parents weighed in through emails or board comments with some suggesting in forums they would leave the district if the district did not reopen in the manner they favored. Early enrollments mostly were down, but district ocials said a deeper dive suggests other things are at play. “When we analyze numbers, we saw we may have lost here or there in elementary [students], but we gained in secondary,” HUSD Associate Super- intendent Dawn Foley said. In fact, HUSD’s losses were 26 stu- dents from grades 1-12, while kin- dergarten lost 122 students, and the district’s tuition-based preschool

Learning Foundation and Performing Arts Gilbert K-6 Learning Foundation and Performing Arts Warner 7-12 Legacy Traditional School-Gilbert K-8 SanTan Charter School K-12

Aug. 6 Oct. 1

468

371

-20.73%

Aug. 6 Oct. 1

415

303

-26.99%

Aug. 5 Oct. 1

1,140 1,142

+0.18%

July 30 Sept. 24 1,125

1,062

-5.6%

Val Vista Academy K-8 Aug. 17 Oct. 15 318

374

+17.61%

SOURCES: GILBERT PUBLIC SCHOOLS, HIGLEY USD, CHANDLER USD, ARIZONA DEPARTMENT OF EDUCATION, AMERICAN LEADERSHIP ACADEMY, GREAT HEARTS ACADEMIES, BENJAMIN FRANKLIN SCHOOLS, CHALLENGER BASIC SCHOOL, DESERT HILLS HIGH SCHOOL, IMAGINE SCHOOLS, GILBERT ARTS ACADEMY, LEADING EDGE ACADEMY, LEARNING FOUNDATION AND PERFORMING ARTS, LEGACY TRADITIONAL SCHOOLS, SAN TAN CHARTER SCHOOL, VAL VISTA ACADEMYCOMMUNITY IMPACT NEWSPAPER *ADDED 8TH GRADE IN 2020

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COMMUNITY IMPACT NEWSPAPER • COMMUNITYIMPACT.COM

“THIS COVID19 ROLLER COASTER THATWE’RE ALL LIVINGWHERE IT’S AHIGHANDA LOW, SOMETIMES WITHIN TWOHOURS OF ONE ANOTHERHAS PROVEN TOBE VERYDIFFICULT FORMANYOF US, BUTWE’RE TRYING TOROLLWITH THE PUNCHES ANDDOOUR BEST FORALL INVOLVED THE BESTWAYWE CAN.” MUMMARTENS, HIGLEY USD HUMAN RESOURCES EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR

Gov. Doug Ducey allowed schools to reopen fully in person. That allowed the school more time to plan, mon- itor numbers and establish safety protocols. “Personally, it’s hard,” she said. “It’s hard for teachers. It’s hard for par- ents, some of whom are saying just stay home and others, ‘Why the heck are kids having to wear masks?’” she said. “Truthfully, I have to commend our community for the way they came together.” Funding concerns Arizona’s school funding formula is based on average daily membership— the total enrollment of fractional and full-time students, minus withdraw- als, of each school day through the rst 100 days in session. Kindergarten students are counted half in that formula since the state only funds half-day kindergarten, so the lower kindergarten student counts are mitigated somewhat. However, the explosion of students attending online school also has an eect. Bonnie Betz, GPS Business Services assistant superintendent, said the state funds online students at somewhere between 85% and 95% of students attending in person,

our sta, and to keep in as frequent communication as possible with all stakeholders so that we could have access to the information we need to sta appropriately and in a timely fashion,” Antestenis said. Martens also said HUSD is trying to be uid as families make decisions on how they want their students to be taught. “We are actively hiring,” she said. “Every week we are hiring new posi- tions, whether it’s certied or classi- ed [sta] and trying to bring people in so we can work to alleviate what’s been happening because we’ve had families change their mind, and we’ve also had, in all honesty, employees come to change their mind quite often, too.” But CUSD’s Berry said the loss of students and, in turn, funding could result in a loss of positions in the 2021- 22 school year. “We’ll try to do it the best we can through [attrition], but denitely if we lose 2,000 kids, that’s a number of sta members,” Berry said.

depending on dierent factors. GPS’ online school, Gilbert Global Academy, has gone from 143 students last year to 5,510 this year. Additionally, the pandemic has brought on additional costs, such as sanitizing uids and equipment to clean schools as well as personal pro- tective equipment to keep employees safe, ocials said. The districts have received assistance from the federal Elementary and Secondary School Emergency Relief fund to help oset the additional costs. Additionally, the three districts have applied for an Enrollment Stabi- lization Grant from the state. That is $487 million Ducey has set aside from Arizona’s portion of the Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security Act, or CARES Act, so schools that meet certain requirements will be funded this scal year at least 98%

of what they received in scal year 2019-20. Still, that means current year bud- gets will have to be reduced. Berry said even backlling with grants, CUSD expects to lose about $8 million in budget capacity. Betz said for GPS it probably means $2.5 million. Ocials said the districts will get by on carry- over or reserve funds. Stang for uncertain levels The other area aected is sta- ing. The schools have been asked to sta without rm knowledge of how many students would be coming and how many would want each learn- ing mode, leaving the districts to repeatedly survey as circumstances changed. “Our goal has been to be as exible as we possibly can to serve the needs of our students and our families and

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