Budget cuts lead to potential school closings

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By Tami Hoey By Tami Hoey
By Tami Hoey By Tami Hoey
By Tami Hoey By Tami Hoey

APACHE JUNCTION, Ariz. -- Another Valley school district could be closing down schools because there's not enough money to go around. The Apache Junction Unified School District has to cut more than a million dollars.

The district has been operating with a $1.5 million budget deficit for years. School officials say cuts and potential school closures are imminent, which doesn't necessarily sit well with parents in Apache Junction.

Dozens of parents pleaded with school board members at an open public comment meeting Tuesday evening. The meeting was held at Superstition Mountain Elementary School, which is on the potential chopping block. Most parents told 3TV that they are concerned not only about their child's school closing, but also how their transportation needs will be met.

"It's really complicated for me to send my son to another school. It's not good; it's too far. I need transportation and I don't know," said parent Ibon Rubalcab.

Johnny Giorsetti came to express concerns about how his daughter's specific needs will be met. "My oldest daughter has problems and is struggling with the special needs, and this school is already set up for the program," he said.

Superintendent Chad Wilson says in all likelihood one of the two elementary schools in the district will close because of a decline in enrollment. For now, he says, there's no threat of teachers being laid off and most programs will remain intact. "The focus is to assure a parent that even if a school is closing, it's to ensure there's a better educational opportunity by having the resources to attract people and quality programs," said Wilson.

Resident Roberto Rivellas expressed concerns about the future of the district and says ultimately his disappointment lies with the voters because, in his words, they didn't prioritize education. "Shame on those of us who did not vote in support of the school bond," he said.

Another public meeting is scheduled for Wednesday at 6 p.m. at Peralta Trails Elementary School. A final decision on the potential cuts will be made before spring break.