Ninth school closing for Tucson school district

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The Tucson Unified School District governing board Wednesday night voted to close yet another school. The ninth that won't reopen in the fall. But this one was a bit different.

The empty shell of Richey Elementary School sits prominently in a Tucson neighborhood.

The small school was built to serve the children of the Pascua Yaqui tribe.

"It meant a lot to the community," Ernette Leslie-John has a daughter who would have been a third-grader at Richey.

She, and members of the tribe, fought hard to keep the school from closing, "What we really wanted to do was come up with some sort of plan-- proposal sort of, in the short time frame that we had."

Two weeks ago, the TUSD governing board decided not to close Richey because they wanted to work out some options with the Pascua Yaqui tribe, but Wednesday night on a 3-2 vote, the governing board decided to close Richey after all.

"The tribe was willing to work on a plan with TUSD. Where it fell short, I'm not quite sure," Board member Adelita Grijalva voted to keep the school open, but she said over the phone that neither side had enough time to figure out the different financing options available.

Now, nearby Roskruge elementary becomes the receiving school for Richey's estimated 90 students.

Leslie-John, however, says her daughter won't go there or to any other TUSD school, "There's transportation issues. There's dropout prevention issues. There's cultural issues."

In the meantime, Leslie-John and members of the Old Pascua community plan to do everything in their power to ensure that the school that had become a fixture here for the Pascua Yaqui children since the 1950's, remains an important part of the neighborhood, "I think we can come up with something."

Some Richey parents are hoping the school can be converted into a charter school and the community can continue using it.

Tribal members were not available to comment.