Stagnant enrollment at the Technology and Leadership Academy has forced Gilbert Unified School District officials to consider phasing out the students next year and starting a new program in 2007.
"Personally, they put this on us at a tough time," said academy junior Jazmyn Taitingfong, who took her final exams this week before the winter break. "It’s a lot to think about, but we are dealing with it."
The academy opened in 2003 as a partnership between the district and the U.S. Air Force and enrolled 102 freshmen and sophomores. Since then, it has added juniors and seniors and topped out at 122 students this year, while achieving an "excelling" label from the state.
Students must have good grades and no discipline referrals to enter the high school that requires them to wear an Air Force Junior Reserve Officer Training Corps uniform once a week and take military training classes.
District officials say marketing tactics haven’t increased enrollment at the school that is built to accommodate 350 students, and the district can’t let the space sit unused.
Officials are proposing to graduate the current students from the program and not accept any new students.
District spokeswoman Dianne Bowers said officials won’t reveal what their proposed plans are for the school until the curriculum has been finalized and presented to the governing board within two months.
Superintendent Brad Barrett talked with parents at the school last week about the proposal, but parents who attended said the situation was "hostile and controversial."
Tey Wiseman, father of academy junior Daniel Wiseman, said parents stopped listening to district officials at the meeting after they understood that the school was shutting down. But since he has had a chance to talk with administration, he said he has a better understanding of why they are making their proposal.
"I understand where they are getting the push back from the military perspective, but the real benefit of the school is the academic excellence," Wiseman said. "I don’t think they’ve had much of an option."