9OYS Education Watch
TUSD public forums on school closures come to a close
Reporter: Maggie Vespa
TUCSON (KGUN9-TV) - The public outcry over TUSD's plan to cut costs by closing up to 14 schools officially quieted down Monday night.
At issue: how many? And which ones?
Monday marked the last chance for concerned community members one more chance to state their case and potentially, save their school.
Throughout the process, the message to board members has remained the same: "Do what you must to fill this $17 million budget hole. Just leave my school out of it."
From potential problems...
"The distance of Valencia to Hohokam Middle School, and the 45 minute bus ride the students would endure," described Julie Wanat, communications representative at Hohokam.
To proposed alternatives...
"Solar power can save the district about 5.68 million dollars per year," argued Rita Nicholson.
To questions regarding the ground work...
"I'd like to see an analysis that shows that you've done everything you can to cut administrative costs first," said Joan Najita, a parent at Cragin Elementary School. "The priority should be on maintaining neighborhood schools."
Monday, at TUSD's final public forum, the pleas had one point: find another way.
"We believe that too many of the cost saving measures start with the children and the teachers," said Brichta Elementary parent Stephanie Hamilton.
Facing an overwhelming number of speakers, district officials limited the list to a few per school.
Otherwise, no official decisions were made.
Board members, there for hours, just listened.
"Carson is there for you," said 8th grader Mary Holden. "Carson has always been there for me, and I have never gotten bullied there."
Throughout the night, the board heard many messages multiple times.
One such repeat, here from city councilman Steve Kozachik: please, just wait.
"You've got a new legislature," he said. "You've got a new board. Lets take it easy. Listen to some of the suggestions that are coming forward from the parents and from the teachers, and lets delay this decision until we have a more reasonable time frame."
School board members are set to make final decisions on these closures on Thursday, December 20th.
They say they'll begin the process of meeting with communities affected by the closures in January.
If you would like to weigh in, there is still time.