2 more TUSD schools might close down

Roberts, Van Horne would be absorbed in two mergers
2010-04-04T00:00:00Z 2014-07-02T08:29:28Z 2 more TUSD schools might close downAlexis Huicochea Arizona Daily Star Arizona Daily Star
April 04, 2010 12:00 am  • 

Two more TUSD schools may be shutting their doors next school year as more campus mergers are on the table.

One would bring together Roberts Elementary and Naylor Middle schools for a K-8 campus.

The other involves Van Horne and Bloom elementary schools, both of which were vying to merge with Wrightstown Elementary School earlier this year.

Site councils at all four schools have already voted to go forward with the mergers. Now they must be approved by the TUSD Governing Board.

The Roberts/Naylor combination will be brought to the board April 13. The Van Horne/Bloom merger may be presented at that same meeting.

Last month, the Governing Board approved a merger between Wrightstown and Henry elementary schools. Wrightstown, which has been open since 1914, will shut it doors next school year and move onto the Henry campus.

The mergers are part of an optional incentive plan put forth by TUSD to maximize resources in a cost-efficient way.

Schools that elect to merge for next school year will be allowed to combine their budgets at the consolidated site, receive capital improvements, and 35 percent of the average utility costs from the closed campus for the next three years to use in its operating budget.

The midtown-merger of Roberts, 4355 E. Calle Aurora, and Naylor would not result in the loss of any teachers, but would eliminate one of the two school principals, said Naylor Principal Don Calhoun.

Both he and Roberts Principal Marcos Quijada would have to interview for the position at the combined school, which will be located at Naylor, 1701 S. Columbus Blvd.

Naylor has room for more than 800 students but currently houses fewer than 300. If all Roberts students made the move to Naylor, which is less than half a mile away, that would bring in another 400 students, Calhoun said.

Calhoun calls the merger a win-win situation.

"Based on our enrollment at Naylor, if we did not merge, we likely would have to close in the near future," Calhoun said.

It is also beneficial to Roberts parents because the combined school would eliminate the transition to middle school that many parents and students fear, he said.

"The research shows that K-8 schools are really successful in student achievement because there is more articulation with the teaching staff," Calhoun said. "Currently we don't have much articulation with feeder schools, but when we're housed on the same campus, teachers will be able to get to know students better and any challenges they face."

In the case of the east-side merger of Van Horne and Bloom, Van Horne students would make the move to Bloom, 8310 E. Pima Street, according to a proposal submitted to TUSD.

While both principals - Norma Flores and Diane Quevedo - would remain on the consolidated campus, some teaching positions would be lost, said Susan Naegle, community representative for the Bloom Site Council.

Those teachers would be placed into a transfer pool. Keeping both principals is necessary to create a smoother transition for students and staff, Naegle said.

The combined projected enrollment for both schools is approximately 405 students. With a capacity of 370, Bloom would need additional classrooms to be constructed before the beginning of the school year.

Van Horne is located at 7550 E. Pima Street. Despite being a mile away, both schools are asking that students be bused to Bloom because Pantano Road at Pima might not be safe for kids to cross, Naegle said.

When the merger plan was presented to schools last December, Bloom initially wasn't interested in combining with another school, Naegle said.

However, because it is underenrolled, Bloom preferred to have a say in the matter rather than being forced to shut down further down the road, Naegle said.

The incentives being offered also made it more enticing.

The benefits that would be realized if the merger is approved include having the ability to offer full-day kindergarten, an art program, band, orchestra and a physical-education teacher, Naegle said.

Did you know

• Van Horne Elementary School opened in 1975. It is named after James "Doc" Van Horne, an administrator, teacher and coach who served at Tucson and Pueblo high schools before retiring in 1959. Van Horne is a performing school.

• Roberts Elementary School opened in 1961. It is named after Clara Fish Roberts, a teacher and the first woman trustee in TUSD. Roberts is a performing-plus school.

Contact reporter Alexis Huicochea at 573-4175 or ahuicochea@azstarnet.com.

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