Scottsdale parents, teachers and residents step up to support displaced students

A screenshot of video provided by the Scottsdale Fire Department of the isolated fire occurring overnight at Navajo Elementary School. (Submitted photo)

Wednesday, Aug. 22 was just like any other day for Bronwyn Maxwell, but within moments of waking she quickly understood this was no normal school day.

Ms. Maxwell, who is classified as a teacher on-assignment at the Scottsdale Unified School District, oversees district-wide early development students.

In the early morning hours of Aug. 22, Scottsdale, Tempe, Phoenix and Mesa fire crews responded to what fire officials say was an isolated fire originating in a storage room at Navajo Elementary School, 4525 N. Granite Reef Road.

A view of a fraction of the donations provided to the displaced students of Navajo Elementary School. (Photo credit: Bronwyn Maxwell)

School was closed on Aug. 22, and students returned to classes Aug. 23 at a nearby school, Oak Learning Academy, 7501 E. Oak Street, which is about three miles away. Meanwhile, officials at Scottsdale Schools, say there is no timeline for how long students will be at the Oak Learning Academy.

But that wasn’t the initial worry on Ms. Maxwell’s mind.

“I had to contact the families who were scheduled to get screened that day at Navajo,” she said of initial intake procedures for students and parents in early development.

“You have to have a licensed room to put PANDA and pre-school students who were just displaced. At Oak there isn’t a licensed room, but that was no matter as there wasn’t enough room in the programs.”

Ms. Maxwell points out the majority of early-childhood programs are provided to students who are apart of Title 1 programs, which is designed to assist low-income families with early development classes.

Initial reports suggested students in Title 1 preschool and PANDA preschool programs had no place to go following the fire at Navajo, which is what sprung Ms. Maxwell into action.

The students — about 30 to 40 preschoolers — found new homes at Yavapai and Hohokam elementary schools, Ms. Maxwell says.

“All of the teachers at both of the schools have been going above and beyond and making them feel they are part of their family,” Ms. Maxwell said.  “For a lot of these students, this was a second home, they felt like they were being displaced. Even the employees, the teachers, they are like a second family that helps folks cope during difficult times.”


When asked for how long Navajo will be closed, Ms. Maxwell replied, “That’s the million-dollar question.”

But questions or not, Ms. Maxwell contends Scottsdale has really stepped up.

“The community, as usual — no matter what is going on — everyone just hunkers down and helps,” she said. “They have just been absolutely wonderful. The Scottsdale Charros offered us a $2,500 for supplies — right now, everyone has been phenomenal.”

Ms. Maxwell says there are hundreds of students displaced and to help raise funds for school supplies and repairs, the Navajo Parent Teacher Organization has launched an online fundraising effort coined, #WeAreNavajo, where community members are seeking to raise $50,000.

As of Aug. 28, the effort had just crossed the $10,000 mark.

“We are in desperate need of materials, books, supplies, technology, etc. so our students can continue their school year with minimal disruption,” the campaign information reads. “Please donate what you can, no amount is too small. All funds will go directly to the PTO to support the teachers, staff, and students of Navajo. Thank you!”

To help, go to

Independent Newsmedia Arizona Managing Editor Terrance Thornton can be contacted at

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