TUSD Closes 11 Schools, Spares Manzo

Kids

At last night’s TUSD Governing Board, the last of the year before a newly elected board takes office, board members voted to close 11 schools as part of the $17 million budget shortfall. The issue is undoubtedly a complicated one, but the PCFA decided to take a stand on behalf of one school, because of the ground-breaking Farm-to-School work it’s been doing.

That school is Manzo Elementary, located on the west side, in Barrio Hollywood. It is one of a small handful of schools that will, in the coming year, be in a position to grow a substantial amount of its own food and serve it through the cafeteria. Our leadership council wrote a letter to the Tucson Unified School District Governing Board, vocalizing our support for the school — one of an original 14 schools slated for closure.

Nick Henry, a PCFA Leadership Council member, attended an open meeting on Dec. 8 and read our letter from PCFA aloud to the Governing Board. In addition, Manzo parents spoke out, making an eloquent case for the ecology program there. Letters of support poured in, and leaders at both the Community Food Bank and the University of Arizona made known their concern about the potential closing.

At last night’s meeting, TUSD recognized this outpouring of support, and acknowledged the community’s investment, even putting a dollar amount on it ($200,000 in equipment and infrastructure, made primarily by partners and fundraising done by the school itself.)  They unanimously voted to keep Manzo Elementary open, with the recommendation that the school become a district-run charter, a status that would enable it to garner more funds from the state, but may not substantially change the programming there.

While the Manzo decision was a relief to all of those involved, overall, it was a sad day for education in Arizona. Wakefield Middle School, another school that’s been doing AMAZING work in this area, was among the 11 the board voted to shut down.  Three more schools on the west side (Brichta, Menlo, and Maxwell) will also cease to exist, at least in their current forms.

This round of the battle is over, but there will probably be more to come.  Next month, two new board members (both of whom campaigned on a platform of NOT closing schools and are replacing pro-closure members) will take office.  They may well have something to say about this, and a decision to close any school still has to pass desegregation criteria based on a judge’s approval.

We will keep you posted.  In the meantime, thanks to all those who came out in support of Manzo and its innovative Farm-to-School Program.

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