SUSD students, parents feel impact of budget override rejection - Tucson News Now

SUSD students, parents feel impact of budget override rejection

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TUCSON, AZ (Tucson News Now) -

Parents and students in the Sunnyside Unified School District are learning a painful lesson.

What happens at the ballot box has real world impact.

A week after voters rejected a budget override, there is shock and disbelief at what it will take to cut almost $6 million from Sunnyside's budget.

Two schools now face possible closure: Chaparral Middle School and Los Ranchitos Elementary.

The district says the challenge is to keep the cuts away from the classroom when it can.

All-day kindergarten will not be cut.

However, elementary schools and middle schools will see significant changes in their structure.

Los Ranchitos Elementary will disappear altogether if the governing board appproves the proposed plan to deal with the loss of the override.

"When you move kids from one school to another it's something hard for them," says Los Ranchitos parent Mayra Maldonado.

"It's so sad to find out this is going on. It's pretty, pretty sad," says Los Ranchitos Luz Molina.

"It's just not fair to the kids in general. Their education, everything. Cutting. Override. Everything," says Melissa Phillips, also a Los Ranchitos parent.

Parents are reacting with frustration, sadness and deep concern that their elementary school, Los Ranchitos, will likely be a victim of the override loss.

Chaparral Middle School also would be closed under the proposal.

The Sunnyside School District must now cut nearly 6 million dollars from its budget.

Perhaps up to 150 people will be laid off.

However, the district is trying to see some opportunities here, find ways to keep the cuts as far from children as possible, look at redesigning the district.

For instance, elementary schools would continue through the sixth grade.

That would make middle schools smaller.

"We'll remodel one of our middle schools. We'll make it a K-8 fine arts school. We'll lower the size of all our middle schools to be more personalized learning environments and we're going to build on what works for us and that's elementary schools," says Sunnyside Unified School District Superintendent Dr. Manuel Isquierdo.

"We want to provide a better opportunity, learning environment for all Los Ranch (Los Ranchitos) students. So by reassigning them to multiple elementary schools, we can do that," Isquierdo says.

Chaparral Middle School would become the kindergarten through eighth grade fine arts magnet school.

Isquiero says the district needed the override to pass, but it didn't and that is forcing the district to changes, some of which, it already had been considering.

For instance, Los Ranchitos has been a failing school though the district had devoted resources to it over the years.

"We're going to have a great opportunity to address our academic challenges, to make our middle schools smaller, to move Los Ranch students to other schools and to be innovative," Isquierdo says.

Under the proposal, Isquiero says the Los Ranchitos School building would become a Parent Engagement Center for family literacy, health and wellness and civic literacy.

He says the Sunnyside District will not go back to being a "dropout factory."

Isquierdo points to Sunnyside District successes, including innovations in technology, growing graduation rates and a growing number of students going to college.

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