PHOENIX – School districts across the state are considering closing schools to compensate for declining enrollments and more than $185 million cut from K-12 funding.
The Tempe Elementary School District is looking at closing Meyer and Bustoz Elementary Schools along with McKemy Middle School.
“I’m really sad because I went to this school and that’s part of the reason we decided to come here so they could come to the same school I went to,” says Catherine Cheek, the mother of a 10-year-old at Meyer.
The problem is Tempe has 2,600 open seats district-wide and has to cut another $3.6 million from its budget. That’s in addition to the $11 million they have had to cut over the last five years.
“Well it’s never easy to close schools and it’s something you never want to have to do,” says Monica Allread with the Tempe Elementary School District. “Now we have to decide, keep all our facilities open or keep all our programs in place.”
It’s a choice parents don’t like but most understand. “If the money is not there the money is not there and I‘d rather have them close a couple schools then cut back on programs,” says Cheeks.
The city Tempe is not alone. The Roosevelt and Isaac School Districts in Phoenix are also considering school closures as a result of enrollment dips.
The Roosevelt School District is looking at closing Sierra Vista and Brooks Academy and the Isaac School District is looking at closing Lela Alston and Carl T. Smith.
Demographer Rick Brammer studies Arizona school districts and says the economy has a lot to do with it.
“We’ve managed to lose 250,000 jobs or so over a 2 to 3-year period,” says Brammer. “Some of that fueled and exacerbated by Senate Bill 1070 and the outflow of some of the Hispanic population.”
While consolidating schools might be fiscally responsible, some parents wonder what will happen to the vacant schools. Allread says, “We do want to hold onto our assets because if enrollment increases we will want to expand again.”
The Tempe School District will vote on the issue Wednesday. The Isaac School District will vote Thursday. The Roosevelt School District will not vote until June.