Public sounds off on proposed merger of Catalina, Rincon High Schools

Updated: Dec. 12, 2017 at 10:07 PM MST
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TUCSON, AZ (Tucson News Now) - The Tucson Unified School District governing board discussed the possible merger of Catalina and Rincon High Schools at their meeting on Tuesday night, Dec. 12.

This idea would give University High School their own campus at Catalina.

A lot of perspectives, concerns, and thoughts on the plan Tuesday night, so many, in fact, that public comment portion was extended twice, with two overflow areas opened up to accommodate the crowds.

"I have not seen this much analysis done on any school closure decision since I have been on the school board," said Mark Stegeman, a TUSD board member.

Many were for the merge.

"A home. Something we don't exactly have right now. And we're not going to disappear or be forgotten about," said Tessa Diconcini, a UHS student.

"I feel that the balance of the two schools is what makes UHS and Rincon both very successful," said Lori Ann Smith, a UHS parent.

One of the biggest concerns Stegeman has heard is the stability in programs and resources at Catalina that cater to students who are refugees (13 percent) and are in English development classes (18 percent).

"Whether they would have the same amount of support that they have at Catalina at Rincon has been a pretty big issue," Stegeman said.

While a few seemed opposed to the idea.

"Every student should have the chance to succeed whether they're a refugee, someone who is unable to live with their family, have special needs or maybe an English language learner," said Matt Kopec.

Stegeman pointed out, however, the merge might be able to help more students.

"The refugee service center we have at Catalina, but we also have a lot of refugee students at Rincon. Not as many but quite a few and if this happened, we would probably move that staff's recommendation to the combined school. So in some sense, that's a plus." Stegeman.

Another big concern was transportation.

Carlos Rijos, a student at Catalina, walks to and from school every single day.

"It usually takes me 40 minutes to an hour to get here," Rijos said.

Rijos is part of the nearly 60 percent of students who walk to and from school. They may have to walk a longer distance or find another way to get to school.

Students also expressed concerns about having to get used to a brand new building.

Right now the board is going over a report that analyzes this consolidation plan, and how it will affect each school and certain student populations. All options are still on the table.

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They can move forward with this plan, come up with a new plan, or just postpone a decision.

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