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TUSD budget ax falls, board votes to close 11 schools

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TUSD budget ax falls, board votes to close 11 schools

CREATED Dec 21, 2012

Reporter: Maggie Vespa

TUCSON (KGUN9-TV) - School is out for good.

Come fall, 2013, 11 TUSD schools will close their doors.
They are:
Hohokam Middle School
Carson Middle School
Schumaker Elementary
Fort Lowell-Townsend
Corbett Elementary
Lyons Elementary
Howenstine Magnet High School
Maxwell Middle School
Brichta Elementary
Menlo Park Elementary
Wakefield Middle School
The cost-cutting ax came down, one by one, at Thursday night's school board meeting.  
It puts an end to months of emotional push-back from parents, students, and staff.
Still, the process leaves many worried their schools will be next.
It began as many meetings have in recent weeks.
"We've been here with our signs and our shirts," said one speaker.
TUSD board members heard one final plea from the public.
"Please don't break the bonds of communities that have come to rely on their school as their backbone," said another.
Then, just as before, the district responded to the emotion with math, and a reminder of that $17 million budget shortfall.
"We must take a strategic approach that has the least impact on our ability to provide resources in the classroom," said superintended Dr. John Pedicone.
But when it came time to vote, there was a twist. 
This time, it was the board members who got personal.
"As the youngest school board member ever elected to this board, I want you to know that no political machine or no union or no one asked me to run for this board," said president Miguel Cuevas.
"This process has been painful," said board member Adelita Grijalva.  "It's been insightful, and I'm sorry that any of us have to go through this."
For some, it was so personal, they bowed out.
"I am disappointed with the process the district took in recommending the school closures," said board member Michael Hicks.  "For this reason, tonight, I will be abstaining from voting on any school closures at this time."
But finally, the votes came.
One by one, 11 schools closed their doors.
For many, the move was crushing.
"Wakefield has everything that it needs to be a functioning school," said parent Maritza Mazon.
Even among the three elementary schools saved, Sewell, Cragin, and Manzo, worry remains.
"[We are] very excited, and relieved that we're saved, but then also very sad by what's going on around us, and I don't think it's going to stop here," said Gina Goldberg, a parent at Sewell Elementary.
Some TUSD board members say, unless the district can turn the trend of dwindling enrollment around, that worry is warranted.
"If we can't get things going to get more kids into these schools, it's going to be cyclical event, and it's just going to be going down and we'll be going back here," said Hicks.  "I will be willing to bet in another three to four years, we'll be back here closing more schools."
For now, it seems 11 will have to do.