MUSD votes 4 to 1 to close Thornydale Elementary

Thornydale Elementary School closing

MARANA, AZ (Tucson News Now) - The Marana Unified School District board has decided on the fate of Thornydale Elementary.

At the MUSD Regular Board Meeting on Thursday, Dec. 6, board members voted 4 to 1 in favor of closing the school, effective June 2019.

This same board voted to save the school back in March, but now eight months later an apology from the board president when the closure vote was announced.

The community was vocal as they walked out of the meeting Thursday night, chanting 'shame' at the board members.

Tom Carlson, MUSD Governing Board President said the board did not make the decision lightly.

“One of the parents remarked that the easy choice was to close the school,” said Carlson. “In fact, it’s just the opposite. The easy choice would’ve been to not close the school and keep on keeping on.”

“I beg them, all five of them, to come to Thornydale while we announce to these children that this will be the last year that they get to attend this school, and see all those children and not regret it,” said Teena Schoneck, a Thornydale Elementary parent.

Board member Dan Post was the only one who voted against the closure.

“It seems to be the practical thing to do,” said Post. “But, in my opinion, it is not the right thing to do.”

Parents, students, teachers, and community members had been urging the school district to keep the school open since the board first considered closure of the school, built in 1974 on Oldfather Road, back in March 2018.

In March 2018, MUSD Superintendent Dr. Doug Wilson made the recommendation to the board to consider the closure of Thornydale Elementary, though the MUSD Governing Board went against the recommendation and voted not to close the school in April 2018.

Dr. Wilson made the same recommendation again in November after there were no immediate signs of financial improvement.

Parents had been under the impression that the school would be given the time to recover from a severe funding shortage dilemma, resulting from a declining enrollment, but there was no guarantee from the district.

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. Revenue for the district is generated on a per-pupil basis and schools with lower enrollment generate less revenue. Thornydale Elementary is MUSD's most expensive school to operate.

MUSD plans to redraw the district boundaries. Thornydale's students will be split up between nearby Butterfield Elementary and Quail Run Elementary. The district has said that teachers and various staff will still have jobs for them elsewhere in the district.

On Nov. 20, in the Thornydale Elementary cafeteria, Dr. Wilson and MUSD staff presented the plan to adjust the school attendance boundaries and turn the Thornydale campus into multi-use space for the relocation of four district departments and school services.

The presentation showed that Quail Run’s expected enrollment would jump from 521 to 550 students, while Butterfield’s expected enrollment would rise from 397 this year to 573 next year.

The board also approved the boundary changes on Thursday night, so if Thornydale parents choose to keep their kids in the district... the roughly 300 students will be split between nearby Butterfield and Quail Run Elementary.

Teachers and staff will be reassigned or transferred within MUSD, while district programs and services will move into the Thornydale campus.

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