The TUSD governing board approved beginning the closure process for six more schools Tuesday night. Maxwell Middle School, Brichta Elementary School, Menlo Park Elementary School, Manzo Elementary School, Cragin Elementary School, and Wakefield Middle School. The board rejected closing Pueblo Gardens Elementary School, Hollinger Elementary School, and Santa Rita High School.
The district has now begun the closure process for a total 14 schools. Last week the board approved beginning the process for Hohokam Middle School, Carson Middle School, Schumaker Elementary School, Fort Lowell/Townsend Elementary School, Corbett Elementary School, Lyons Elementary School, Sewell Elementary School, and Howenstine High School.
Tuesday night's meeting had a full audience in the Catalina Magnet High School auditorium. The board extended the call to the audience, which lasted about two and a half hours and had about 80 speakers.
"I'm defending strongly Hollinger because all my kids are in Hollinger and they, all of them, are in the GATE program, bilingual program," Hollinger parent Maria Barajas said before the meeting began.
"Dual language GATE, it's one of those programs where I think that all children should experience," said her son, Rafael Barajas, who is in 5th grade at Hollinger.
But one speaker told the board that it should make all the closures that need to be made at one time, and that taking small measures only hurts everyone involved.
"Well, there's always concern that you may close schools that you don't need to close, but the fact of the matter is when you've got a $17 million budget problem, you probably need to close on the order of 25 to 30 schools in a district of 90 in order to make that budget problem go away," said TUSD resident and former parent Steve Lynn.
"I don't understand the numbers, I do know that with this economy and with the school system, everybody else, we're all struggling, but please, I hope they do not close Santa Rita High. It's a wonderful school," said Santa Rita grandparent Cheri Mooney before the board decided to not close the school.
The need to balance the budget, the need to be fair to all areas of the district, and the need to protect the quality of education for current and future students posed a balancing act for the board.
"One of the concerns that I have is that we haven't addressed the population boom on the south and west sides," said board member Adelita Grijalva. "And while I do appreciate the fact that the eastside people feel like we're closing more schools on that side of town, we have to follow the population."
Public hearings on the closures start next week. A hearing on the first set of eight schools approved will be on Saturday, December 8. A hearing on Monday, December 10 will give anyone from any of the schools up for closure a chance to speak. A final vote on closing schools will be on December 20.
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