‘Frustrating’ process continues as Gilbert Jr. High voted closed - East Valley Tribune: East Valley Education News

‘Frustrating’ process continues as Gilbert Jr. High voted closed

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Posted: Friday, October 5, 2012 7:12 am | Updated: 4:01 pm, Fri Oct 5, 2012.

Gilbert Junior High School seventh-graders may not know until early next year where they will attend school in August 2013, following a decision by the district governing board Tuesday night.

Gilbert Classical Academy families may be in the same boat.

Hundreds of residents attended the Gilbert Unified School District governing board meeting Tuesday when the board voted 3-1 to close Gilbert Junior High with the start of the 2014 school year.

But left open is what happens at the start of the 2013 school year. The board altered the district administration’s recommendation to close Gilbert Junior High in May 2013 and move Gilbert Classical Academy from its aging buildings into that spot.

Instead the board created a “transition team” to craft a plan — one with parent input that many felt was greatly lacking.

That group is to give a recommendation to the board to consider no later than the first meeting of January.

But between now and then, there is a school board election — one that could replace four of the five members of the current board.

Board members EJ Anderson, Blake Sacha and Lily Tram are all seeking election. Board member Helen Hollands is not.

Kimberly Smith, who has three children at Gilbert Classical Academy, said the entire process has been “frustrating.”

“Everybody feels we are being thrown under the bus. We feel we have been told we will get a new campus. We don’t have facilities. To get to PE, students have to cross a busy street,” she said.

The academy is a rigorous program for seventh- through 12th graders that started six years ago in about half of the buildings on the former Greenfield Elementary School site. There are about 400 students in the program, with more than 120 on a waiting list. There is no application process. Any student can enter the lottery for a spot.

Gilbert Junior High is in an aging part of the community. Because no new students are moving into the homes, enrollment has dropped from about 1,000 in 2003 to less than 700 now.

The district hoped to move the academy to the Gilbert Junior High campus next school year. But now any concrete plans will have to wait.

That’s OK with Gilbert Junior High parents who said not enough notice was given to them about this decision. They learned less than two weeks prior to the vote that the school faced closure.

“It took longer to name Campo Verde High School than to close a school that’s been around for 30 years. That’s inappropriate and irresponsible,” said Karen Udall, a resident of the area whose children have attended Gilbert Junior High.

Udall said she is happy that the brakes have been put on the plan for now so questions can be addressed.

“We hope the transition team will raise the awareness of all the pieces of the puzzle that have not been answered,” she said, noting the fact that there are 103 out-of-area students at Gilbert Junior High under open enrollment policies. “Will they stay with the district or will they be leaving? What will the traffic patterns through the neighborhood look like? What’s the cost for a bigger parking lot and renovations?

“We hope they will address those issues and get those answers and bring that information to light so the community can understand what they’re looking at.”

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