Three school districts that serve kindergarten through 12th grade students in Tempe will remain separate, according to early voting results.
Voters in Tempe Elementary School District and Kyrene Elementary School District were asked if they wanted to unify with Tempe Union High School District. While voters in Tempe Elementary were leaning toward a “yes” vote, Kyrene voters were turning down the measure by more than two-to-one.
Only one district in the proposed unification area had to vote down the measure for it to fail.
“It’s not a landslide, especially considering the proponent committee didn’t do that much campaigning,” said Tom Sounart, who formed the Preserve Kyrene committee.
But it’s a win for Kyrene and its students, he said.
“The district gets to continue as it is, being the outstanding district we have all loved to have and are happy to have our children in. It gets to carry on the great work it’s been doing for our kids.”
Tempe mother Suzanne Choi, 37, said she voted against the unification measure.
“My kids are in Kyrene and I feel it’s a better district, and I feel merging it with Tempe won’t help the district,” she said. “My understanding is all districts don’t want to merge.”
Nancy Heath, 25, an education major at Arizona State University, said she voted against the unification measure based on the demographics of Tempe Elementary and Kyrene Elementary school districts.
“I think the two districts are too different and it would be to difficult to make it work. The districts are socially so different and Tempe (Union) is such a big district already,” Heath said.
Lauren Bonetti, 19, also said “no” to unification.
“It didn’t sound like a good idea,” Bonetti said.
All three governing boards voiced their opposition in letters responding to the committee that put the measure on the ballot.
Preserve Kyrene was the only political action committee formed to fight the measure. Sounart, who has lived in the Kyrene district for more than two years and has one child in the district, recruited the volunteers and organized forums.
This year, there are about 12,700 students in the Tempe Elementary district, 13,300 students in Tempe Union and 18,000 students in Kyrene. The union would have made a 44,000-student district. It would have become the second-largest district in the East Valley, behind Mesa with its 69,000 students and just above Gilbert, with more than 39,000 students.
The question was placed on the ballot by the School District Redistricting Commission, created by the Legislature.
There were 27 unification and consolidation measures on Arizona ballots, affecting 76 school districts. For unification to take place, voters in all affected districts must approve the measure. The only unification measure in the East Valley was the Tempe and Kyrene elementary and Tempe Union question.