The Main Stream

Dec 3, 2012 6:39 PM by Lorraine Rivera

Parents circulate petition in response to possible closure

TUCSON - Parents at Sewell Elementary School are circulating a petition hoping the Tucson Unified School District will reconsider possibly closing the east side school.

During the last couple of weeks the Tucson Unified School District identified 14 schools for possible closure. Among them is Sewell Elementary School, which has existed since 1953.

Jihane Rohrbacker is a mom and school volunteer, she's also behind the petition. Rohrbacker said the school is a B performing school and at capacity and should not be on the possible closure list, "You know we're at capacity but you know we could always add a portable or have more room for kids. I, as a parent, do not want to send my kids to a C or D school when my school is doing great, it's a B school."

Rohrbacker's two older children attended Sewell and her kindergartner is currently a student.

"What I love about it is that it's big enough you get a lot of programs you can't find in other places and but it's also a family. The teachers know the kids, the kids know the teachers and they all look out for each other," she said.

The school does not have a librarian but Lisa Capron is a full time volunteer in the library. Her children transferred to Sewell in 2010 after the district closed Duffy Elementary School, "we've lost trust in TUSD if they close such an amazing place and break verbal promise."

Sewell has more than 300 students and about 35 staff, Dr. Bennett Blum who lives and works nearby said closing the school would damage more than education, "first of all property values will probably decline. Secondly, there will an impact on many of the local businesses."

The district said hearings would be held to before initiating any closures. A district spokeswoman said the closures are being considered because of a $17 million deficit.

Cara Rene, the district spokeswoman released a statement late Monday, "Sewell Elementary is a candidate for closure because it meets most of the criteria approved by the governing board, including declining enrollment, high likely value for alternative use of the site, and easy transitions for families to high performing nearby schools.

The small capacity of Sewell means that the enrollment does not allow the school to break even in regards to the costs of running the school. Like Sewell, Kellond Elementary ­ a potential receiving school ­ has good academic performance and has a capacity of 700 students so it could receive most, if not all, students from Sewell."

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