DÉJÀ VU? MUSD to discuss potential closure of Thornydale Elementary

Thornydale Elementary future

MARANA, AZ (Tucson News Now) - In an eerie case of déjà vu, the Marana Unified School District will again discuss the possible closure of Thornydale Elementary, after the governing board voted to keep the school open in April.

On Thursday’s agenda for the Regular Board Meeting, Marana Superintendent Dr. Doug Wilson will hold a discussion on “Developing District Master Plan,” which will include comments on facility usage, school enrollment, expansions, boundary changes, and a school closure. MUSD spokesperson Tamara Crawley confirmed that the sole focus of the school closure aspect of Dr. Wilson’s presentation will be on Thornydale Elementary.

In March 2018, Dr. Wilson made the same recommendation to the board to consider the closure of Thornydale Elementary.

The decision to possibly close the school, which was built in 1974, was due to a steady decrease in enrollment over the last eight years. A declining state budget and the escalating costs associated with building maintenance and utilities were also factors in the closure.

A public meeting was held later that month, at Thornydale Elementary School on Oldfather Road. For more than two hours, parents took the podium to express their frustrations with the school board’s decision.

On April 13, the Marana Unified School District Governing Board voted not to close the school.

Statistics from the district showed that enrollment has steadily declined over the last two decades. There were 733 students enrolled at Thornydale Elementary in 1994, compared to 307 in 2018.

Thornydale Elementary enrollment since 1994 (Source: Marana Unified School District)
Thornydale Elementary enrollment since 1994 (Source: Marana Unified School District) (Source: Schreiber, Evan)

"Recognizing this, District Administration's recommendation to close Thornydale due to declining enrollment is not one that is taken lightly; however, as Superintendent, it is my fiscal responsibility to ensure school sustainability for the 12,200 students we serve and be responsible for the resources entrusted to us by our taxpayers," Wilson read aloud in a prepared statement at the March 2018 public meeting.

Crawley said that Thursday's discussion item is an ongoing item that is common, periodically, but no vote or action will be taken at the meeting.

In the event that the board wants to call for a vote and put the potential school closure item on the agenda, they will need to notify the community through a public meeting - similar to the March meeting that drew hundreds of people to the Thornydale Elementary cafeteria.

All the current Marana Unified School District Governing Board members are the same individuals who voted on the school closure item during the April 2018 meeting, Crawley said. No new board members were voted into the board position during this latest election.

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