Student Handbook – PFFS Downtown

Note from the Directors 

Welcome! As Co-Directors of the Paulo Freire Freedom School – University and Downtown — and the originators of the vision of this school we are delighted to open up our dream to a new community of students, parent and community partners. So with much hard work, sweat and stress behind, our doors and hearts are open and we set forth. Prepare for lots of learning, joy and an adventure to be proud of.


You will meet in an advisory group of approximately 12 students with a teacher several times a week to focus on the intellectual, social, emotional, and physical development of young adolescents.

The purpose of advisory is to provide each student with:

  • An adult advocate who will know his/her advisee as a person and as a student in order to foster positive self esteem and social and academic success in school.
  • An opportunity to reflect on and practice our Habits of Heart and Mind, to learn about the Arizona State Health Curriculum and to prepare for student-led conferences and their graduation portfolio.

The purpose of advisory is to provide each parent with a teacher who will serve as a link between the school and the student’s home with up-to-date information and help on personal and academic growth and progress.  Advisors work in conjunction with their advisee and their parents to help them develop their personalized playlist which will direct their learning during Flow Lab.

Afterschool Activities/Clubs

Every year PFFS has an afterschool program with options developed with the input of the students. In the past we have offered: break dancing, Chess Club, Kindness Club, D&D club, choir, and the Green Club. Additionally, we provide a safe and quiet place for students to be able to do homework and get academic assistance in our Homework Help time (3:45-5:00) Some of our afterschool activities are fee based with scholarships for those with financial needs. Fees or scholarships applications must be filled out at the beginning of each semester. Only students who have signed up for the afterschool program may stay afterschool unless special permission is given.


Consistent daily attendance is essential for your success as a student.   Please try to schedule vacations and appointments afterschool or during previously schedule school vacation times. If it is necessary for you to be absent from school, please have your parent call the office at 352-0057.   It is your responsibility to get any work you missed from your teachers when you return. Excessive absences can result in withdrawal from the school.   The school’s office hours are 7:45 A.M. to 5:00 P.M.

Students should not arrive at school before 7:45 A.M. unless special arrangements have been made. From 7:45-8:15 we open the school for “light supervision” (adults will be here but they will be busy preparing for the school day). Students who fail to conduct themselves properly in the morning will lose the privilege of arriving before 8:15. In consideration of our neighbors, some of whom are conducting business early, we ask that students do not hang out in front of the school entrance. Once a student enters the school they will not be permitted to leave the premises until the end of the school day.   School begins promptly at 8:30. Students arriving before the beginning of school must proceed directly downstairs to the main south room. Please make all efforts to arrive on time. Our beginning community time is valuable community and learning time and students who miss it or come late interfere with its effectiveness.

Early Dismissal/Pick-Up – A student being dismissed early must be signed out at the office by the parent/guardian who is picking them up. No child will be dismissed early from school until a parent, guardian or authorized person reports to the office first.

Change of Address

Please inform the office if you change your address and/or telephone number. This is extremely important in the case of an emergency.



We believe the best way to discipline is to set up expectations and a culture of respect up front so that discipline matters will be less likely to present themselves. We commit to continue to work on limit the number of referrals that occur. However, when students do violate the norms and/or rules of the school they will receive consequences commensurate with the severity/frequency of the offense. Attached with this student handbook is our discipline matrix that describes a spectrum of misconduct. Note: some misconduct might be referred to our Restorative Justice System, run by trained student facilitators.


PFFS is an equal opportunity employer and educational institution. We do not discriminate on the basis of race, color, national origin, sexual orientation, age, religion/religious beliefs, gender, creed, citizenship status, marital status, political beliefs/affiliation, home language, disability, family, social or cultural background in admission to or treatment of its educational programs or activities.

Dress Code

PFFS recognizes that students may desire to express their own sense of personal style through their attire and grooming, however, personal choices of students and their parents can affect the educational program of the school or the health and safety of others. This can occur where a student’s attire or grooming distracts other students from their learning or interferes with staff duties. Students’ dress may also operate to threaten or intimidate others. With this in mind, the following dress is prohibited:

  • Presents a hazard to the health or safety of the student or to others in the school
  • Materially interferes with school work, create disorder, or disrupt the educational program
  • Distracts students from achieving their educational objectives
  • Represents membership in a gang.
  • Obscene language or symbols, or symbols of sex, drugs, or alcohol on clothing are expressly prohibited.

Proper footwear is required for P.E. classes at the YMCA and for Expeditions.

Family/School Partnerships

We strive to work collaboratively with families to help our students have the best middle school experience possible. Parent and community involvement are key ingredients for the success of our schools. First and foremost we expect that all parents/guardians support their child’s academic growth. To that end we require that parents/guardians attend their child’s student-led conferences twice a year and that 8th grade parents/guardians participate in the graduation portfolio presentation.

Volunteering will provide an opportunity for families and community members to work with children and to learn more about our schools.  It is particularly helpful to us if you can help out with driving when we go on expeditions. Please let us know if you are available to help. Other forms of volunteering, in small or large amounts is also greatly appreciated and will make a difference.

Food & Water

All students are required to bring a water bottle to school. PFFS will contract with a vendor to provide a hot lunch service. Money will be collected on a daily basis in the lunch line, although students may deposit a credit of money if they wish. We are part of the National Student Lunch Program, and families that qualify can receive free and reduced lunch.  Students may also bring their own lunch. There will be a refrigerator and microwave available. Food and drinks other than water will not be allowed on all carpeted surfaces.

Gateway Week

The last week of school is our “Gateway Week” in which students are asked to demonstrate what they have learned and what they can do through participation in a series of authentic exhibitions of learning. It is extremely important that students do not miss this week. In addition to it being difficult if not impossible to reschedule time for students to make up the work, students who are not at the school will miss out on a significant amount of learning as an audience to their peers.

Habits of Heart & Mind

Along with academic standards, PFFS students will develop life-long habits of heart and mind – our name for important 21st Century learning skills. These habits will be taught and assessed in their classroom instruction and evidence of progress in these habits will be collected, reflected upon and shared in student portfolios. At the end of the year, in addition to honoring academic achievement, awards are given to the students who best exemplify these habits. An easy way to remember them are they represent A RECIPE for success.

  • Action
  • Reflection
  • Expression
  • Care
  • Inquiry
  • Perspective
  • Evidence


The health of all our community is of vital concern to us. Your support on the following guidelines will help keep a healthy school environment. Parents of children who become ill, or have symptoms of illness at school, will be contacted to pick them up. If parents are not at home, the person designated on the emergency information sheet is called to care for the child until a parent can take over. It is IMPORTANT to notify the school of any changes that need to be made on the emergency information sheet.

Please note that if a child is well enough to be in school, he/she is expected to participate in all classes and recess (unless a written note from a physician is provided). School policy requires that parents notify the school office when their child will be home sick. If a child is absent and we have not been notified we may contact the home/or workplace. When your child returns to school, please send a written note explaining the absence.

Medications -The only medications considered necessary to be taken at school are those prescribed by a physician to be taken on a schedule that cannot be adjusted to outside school hours. When it becomes necessary for a student to take any form of medication at school, a medication permit signed by the parent must be presented to the front office. All medications will be kept in the front office and taken under adult supervision. The medication must be clearly labeled with name of medicine, name of child, dosage, frequency, physician’s name, and in the original container.

Immunizations – Arizona State law requires that all children meet certain immunization requirements for school entry. If a child’s health records are not in compliance with the state law, the office will contact you. A parent may fill out an exemption form, available from the front office.


Homework is given to reinforce material that has been taught in school. It is not used to introduce new material. Assignments are intended to develop good work habits, improve academic progress and help inform parents of the school’s curriculum. We estimate that students should be doing on average of 30 minutes a night. Please feel free to contact your teachers if there are questions or concerns about the homework.


For one week at the end of the Fall and Winter trimester, we will break from regular classroom instruction and students and teachers will be able to pursue topics of interest in depth for an extended period of time. Examples of possible intersession units might be: Theater, Law, Cooking, Political Art, Border Studies, Backpacking, Rocky Point ecosystems, etc. For students who struggling to attain the academic learning goals in the core subjects for that particular trimester, intersession will provide an opportunity for remediation.   The usually is a separate fee associated with Intersessions with financial assistance available.


We have a small, but growing library at PFFS that operates on the honor system. If we want to maintain high quality books, it is important that every student commit to treating the books well and returning them when they are finished. In order to increase our collection, we are happy to accept donations of used books and magazines. We also will be taking students to the Downtown Public Library on a consistent basis.

Morning Meeting

Your day will begin with a gathering called Morning Meeting. Each morning we will meet for 15 minutes of community time. At times we will use this gathering to make announcements, celebrate achievements, sing, sit in silence and read works of inspiration. Family and friends are always welcome to stay for Morning Meeting. It will make our time that much more special.

Narrative Reports & Student Led Conferences

Narrative Report Cards – In order to give real, specific, personalized information about how your student is progressing, we will issue report cards with Narrative Report Cards instead of the traditional A-F grades. The reports will include information relating to progress on core academic standards as well as their studying/learning behaviors.

Progress Reports are meant as a quick snapshot on how PFFS students are doing in academic content, behavior and homework and are distributed three times a year in the middle of each trimester. Shortly following their distribution is our scheduled Student Led Conferences. We view these conferences as being an essential part of the student’s learning process, therefore, it is critical parents attend these meetings. For those parents who are not able to attend the regularly scheduled sessions, every attempt will be made to reschedule the conference at a time that works for the family.

Students will take the state standardized tests as mandated by law.


First, we apologize for the difficult parking situation. Directly in front of the school is a 10 minute loading zone – make sure to put on the emergency blinkers if you park here. Nearby the school is 2-hour metered parking that is in effect until 5:00. Across the street from the school is a parking lot with $6.00/day parking and if you travel east ½ block on Pennington is a covered garage with 1 hour free parking and day parking for $8.00.

Portfolios and Promotion

Students will be required to demonstrate the skills mastered during the middle school years by successfully presenting their graduation portfolio to a panel of judges, successfully completing their Gateway Week and by showing proficiency in their classes.


The privacy of parents and students is protected by the Family Education Rights and Privacy Act.   A copy of these rights are available upon request. Students and parents may have access to their records. A reasonable copy charge may be imposed if copies are requested.


Fire Drillswill be conducted on a regular basis. These necessary safety precautions are intended to assist students and staff to respond appropriately and safely to emergency situations. Setting off a fire alarm without proper justification is a serious offense, resulting in disciplinary action and possibly requiring financial compensation for any fees imposed to the school. PFFS has a comprehensive crisis plan in place to deal with emergencies. The Plan is reviewed periodically in conjunction with local law enforcement and fire and rescue personnel.

Service Learning

Service Learning is an important part of PFFS curriculum and life. It is woven into regular classwork, advisory activities, expeditions and intersessions. Additionally our 8th graders need to complete a service learning project to successfully complete their graduation portfolio. Although we like to focus on the content and learning rather than the hours, a guideline to understand the commitment we are talking about is a minimum of 20 hours if a student is simply “plugging into” already established service events/organizations or a minimum of 10 hours if the student is creating his/her own original event/service.

Special Education

Pursuant to law, PFFS will conduct Child Find as part of its special education identification process.   This initial screening must be done within 45 days of entry. Our special education philosophy emphasizes inclusion with our students being included to the extent possible in our regular education classes and provided extra support as needed.

Student Led Conferences

Twice each year students will present facilitate a meeting with their parents and advisor in which they will publically reflect upon the status of their learning. In these meetings students will discuss their strengths, stretches and passions in each of their classes, share examples of work and set goals. These conferences are required and it is critically important that parents make time to attend.


Cell phones during school hours are permitted only with explicit permission by a faculty member. At lunch time phones can be used for games or music, but not for texting or calling unless with permission. Unauthorized cell phone will result in the confiscation of phone. Repeated misuse will result in completely banning the phone on school premises. The telephones in the office are for school staff only. Except in the case of an emergency, school phones are not available for student use. If a parent needs to contact their student, they should call the front office at 352-0057.