Sunnyside board OKs closing Los Ranchitos, Chaparral schools

2014-01-15T00:00:00Z 2014-01-15T11:42:29Z Sunnyside board OKs closing Los Ranchitos, Chaparral schoolsBy Jamar Younger Arizona Daily Star Arizona Daily Star

The Sunnyside Unified School District will officially move forward with the closures of two schools.

Sunnyside’s Governing Board approved closing Chaparral Middle School and Los Ranchitos Elementary School at its Tuesday- night meeting. The closures should save about $1.7 million, according to officials.

The board also approved a plan to send Los Ranchitos students to Sierra Middle School, which would then serve second- through eighth-graders.

Los Ranchitos’ kindergartners and first-graders will move to Ocotillo Early Learning Center, which will be converted to a prekindergarten-through-first-grade early-childhood center.

Sunnyside officials want to reopen Chaparral as a kindergarten-through-eighth-grade fine-arts school.

District officials also unveiled a plan Tuesday night for retaining and reassigning teachers from the two closed schools, as well as at Ocotillo.

Permanent teachers at those schools will have first priority when reapplying for other district positions.

The district will not eliminate any teacher positions but will still probably cut other non-classroom jobs such as campus monitors, elementary-school specialists, clerical staff and teacher aides.

The closures and proposed cuts didn’t meet much opposition from the public Tuesday night.

The district held a forum for the public to speak about the closures, but no one submitted a request to speak, so the forum was finished in a matter of minutes.

However, some employees complained previously that district administrators did not allow them to give any input into the budget decisions.

Some board members still didn’t fully support the proposed closures or the plan to send students to Sierra Middle School.

Board members Buck Crouch and Daniel Hernandez Jr. voted against the closures.

Crouch questioned how much money would really be saved from the closures and position cuts.

He also wondered where the district would find the money to reopen Chaparral.

Sunnyside Superintendent Manuel Isquierdo said the district will have to find the money, but that he is confident the school will be reopened.

Chief Financial Officer Hector Encinas said the district would save money on utilities and insurance in the closed buildings.

The district is in the midst of budget cuts after voters rejected an override in November.

District officials are looking to save at least $5 million with the proposed cuts.

Other proposed cuts include reducing and redesigning district maintenance services, releasing employees who have retired and returned to work, and reducing administration and coordinator positions.

Contact reporter Jamar Younger at jyounger@azstarnet.com or 573-4242. On Twitter: @JamarYounger

Copyright 2014 Arizona Daily Star. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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