Yuma District One parents speak out over Ham School closing

Yuma District One parents speak out over Ham School closing

Yuma, Arizona November 9, 2011 - Parents with students at Mcgraw and Rolle Elementary Schools voiced their concerns at a public hearing at Yuma School District One's Board Room.  They said closing Gwyneth Ham Elementary School will further burden their already packed classrooms.

"We want funding spent on teachers," explained a mother of a Kindergartner.  "I have lots of friends who private school their kids and homeschool their kids solely because of our numbers in our classrooms right now.  They will not send their kids to the school with 32 Kindergartners."

Ham School parents also worry about the possible closure too.  A father whose family lives within walking distance of Ham School told District One board members the dangers of his child walking to a school further away.

"My son is currently a Kindergartner at Gwyneth Ham Elementary School.  It is in this capacity as a concerned parent that I come before you today, asking you to oppose closing Gwyneth Ham or any other school from District One at this time."

Other parents expressed concerns over District One administration's spending $14,000 on a study by ARCADIS, the independent consulting firm that suggested the district close Ham School.  They also asked why the administration is not following ARCADIS' recommendation of transferring Ham students to other district schools.  Among the district schools, the study listed Rolle, Otondo, and Desert Mesa.

"I'm questioning how we got to the decision to put students in McGraw and Rolle instead of these other schools if we're following their recommendation," said Eliana Osborn, a concerned Rolle parent.  "McGraw was never listed."

Superintendent Dr. Darwin Stiffler explained to the parents in attendance and the governing board.

"That's a fair question.  The reason we paid them was not necessary that they did a complete study on our attendance boundaries," said Superintendent Stiffler.  "What they did was to study its usage and how should the facilities be used."

Parents wanted District One's Governing Board to consider their arguments to keep Ham Elementary open.

"I'm asking you not to vote on this until we get a recommendation from the State.  I feel strongly about that and I hope you make your decision and search it out," said concerned Rolle parent, Lara Smith.

"I don't think there's any conflict.  It's really a technicality about where should the kids go," explained Superintendent Stiffler.  "The recommendation was clearly to close Gwyneth Ham School.  And the administration has been considering that since June."

A former District One board member says the current board has a big job ahead of them.

"They need to look at the cause and effect as to why students are leaving this district," said Gary Wright, a retired teacher.  "And if students are leaving this district, it's very reflective of the school board and it's very reflective on the administration."

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