The Marana Unified School District Governing Board decided to permanently close Thornydale Elementary School, located at 7651 N. Oldfather Road, in a 4-1 decision on Thursday evening.
Enrollment at the K-6 school has been declining for over two decades, according to the district. In 1994 there were 733 students enrolled, compared to just 306 this year.
Officials said the decline was caused by a demographic change in the neighborhood, with fewer elementary school-aged children living there. There are no new home developments planned either. Only 192 students at the school live within the Thornydale attendance boundaries.
“In keeping with good fiscal responsibility, the district acknowledges that school district budget revenues are solely generated on a per pupil basis; therefore school enrollment is vitally important to the sustainability of a school,” Superintendent Doug Wilson wrote in an open letter to families of Thornydale Elementary.
The district spends about $2 million annually to keep the school running. At the meeting, Wilson said they spend about $6,468 per pupil at Thornydale, compared to $4,662 at the other elementary schools.
The students of Thornydale will be relocated to the neighboring Quail Run and Butterfield elementary schools. At the public meeting, parents of students enrolled at the school expressed concerns over the hardships of transitioning their children, many of whom have special needs.
Board member Dan Post gave the sole “no” vote, stating that closing the school was the practical thing to do, but not the right thing to do.
Board president Tom Carlson said that this was an extremely difficult decision to make, and that he understood the parents’ frustration. However, he said the closure of Thornydale would be for the greater good of the district as a whole.
Assistant superintendent Carolyn Dumler said all of Thornydale’s teachers, administration and support staff will be relocated to different schools in comparable positions, per district policy.
Following the decision to close the school, the board members unanimously voted to convert the Thornydale campus into a multi-use facility for the district’s Dr. Marianne Valdez Play and Learn (PAL) preschool program, the Extended Learning Opportunities Department, the Health Services Department and the Student Services Department.
The school is expected to close at the end of this school year.