May 10, 2011 5:12 AM
Tucson - When the economy tanked, our schools were hit hard. Nine schools in T.U.S.D. are now closed.
We wanted to know what's happening to those abandoned playgrounds and vacant buildings so Kristi's Kids investigated.
You might be surprised to hear how much the district is still spending each year to keep these empty schools.
"But I see a lot of damage to a lot of windows. Windows are broken out. Doors are unlockable because locks have been broken."
John Mattos's family owns a home a few feet from Reynolds elementary where he raised three daughters. All of his girls went to Reynolds but his youngest didn't get to finish.
"I was sad because I got to go there for 5 years and then it closed the last year I was going to be there," says Lahala Mattos.
John now worries about the empty building and the problems it attracts.
"A lot of graffiti. A lot of vagrants have been going through the school and in the play ground," he explains.
T.U.S.D. says it wants to be a good neighbor. It doesn't want the empty schools to become eyesores.
Crews make rounds each week at all the facilities.
"If we notice water or anything like that coming out of a restroom or a pipe or anything," says Johny Sanchez. He is the Pride Appearance Manager with the district. "We'll definitely shut that water first off and make the repairs so that everything is functional."
And the landscaping is controlled.
"Which is basically every 9 to 10 days we have a 2 man crew come through and perform maintenance for half a day."
The district also addresses the vandalism, painting over graffiti and boarding up broken windows within 24 hours.
The cost for all of this? $50,000 to $80,000 per empty school each year. That's $450,000 for the 9 schools which are closed. This also includes utilities.
That's money, parents like John say, would be better spent directly on kids.
"Isn't that a waste of the money since you closed the school down? Wouldn't it have been better to just have them come in with bulldozers, and just bulldoze it out so that there was not maintenance cost?"
But the district tells us demolition would cost at the very least $500,000 per building.
There would have to be asbestos abatement and more.
The district also says next week it'll start a campaign to sell or lease the buildings.