Board votes to close Gilbert Jr. High in 2014

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By Catherine Holland By Catherine Holland

GILBERT, Ariz. -- After hours of public input and discussion, the governing board of Gilbert Public Schools has decided to close Gilbert Junior High School.

It will not happen right away, though. Gilbert Junior High will remain open until the 2014-'15 school year.

Because so many people were expected at Tuesday night's meeting, it was moved Mesquite High School. The final 3-1 vote came down at about 11:30 p.m.

Details are still being worked out, but Gilbert Junior High students will likely be sent to with Greenfield or Mesquite junior high schools. The campus will be re-purposed for Gilbert Classical Academy, a college preparatory school that is so popular there is a waiting list, as well as a lottery for enrollment. In contrast, the student population at Gilbert Junior High has been steadily declining.

There are about 650 students attending Gilbert Junior High Right now. That's about half the number of kids who went there a decade ago.

"I know they have to do what they have to do," said Melissa Knutson, a parent of an 8th grader.  "It's been good for us, it's a great school. Kinda sad to see it go."

The board said the decision to close Gilbert Junior High will help the district financially, saving about $360,000 annually.

The decision to shut down Gilbert Junior High will leave the district with five junior high schools plus CGA.

Many parents also worry about Gilbert Junior High's faculty.  "As long as the teachers move to other schools and don't get laid off, that to me, is the most important thing,"  argued Jane Herrera.  "And As long as they work with the parents to shuttle kids where they need to go. It sounds like it's for a good reason."

With the closure of Gilbert Junior High slated for 2014, a committee will be formed to determine where the kids will go and how the district lines will be redrawn. Those decisions are expected by early next year.

Gilbert Public Schools serves more than 39,000 students.