Yuma District One School Board votes to close Ham Elementary

Yuma District One School Board votes to close Ham Elementary

Yuma, Arizona November 14, 2011 - Parents like Shawn Doerr worry about Gwyneth Ham Elementary closing.  Doerr worries about the traffic.

"Arizona Avenue is a busy street.  I know they have cross walks and guards there and all that," said Doerr, who has a 2nd grader at Ham.  "But you have Arizona and 24th Street.  And if you have 400 to 600 more kids there, there's going to be that much more problems that can happen."

Parents say the overcrowding at Rolle and McGraw Elementary Schools will get worse.  They made their last-ditch pitch to the District One Governing School Board before they voted on the closure.

"In order to see real savings for the school district, every single dime we have go to teach our children and pay teachers," said one concerned mother.

"My children are very smart children, they're wise children and I love them, but I'm concerned about the children that I go and read with in 3rd grade that aren't meeting the standards they need to," said concerned parent Laura Smith.  "Kindergarten:  how can you read with a child when their class size is at 32?"

"I did my research and I visited McGraw last year, but the reason why they had empty classrooms is because now the Kindergarten classes are now at 27, 28, whatever the estimated rate is," said a concerned parent of a McGraw Kindergartner.

Governing board members made their decision to close Ham Elementary.  The Board voted 5-0 to close Ham at the end of the school year.  They also voted to have Ham students within walking distance to attend McGraw Elementary.  Ham students who live in the Ocotillo subdivision will be bussed to Rolle Elementary.

"I'm not happy to be sitting here to make this decision to do this discussion.  It pains me.  I know people are going to be hurt," said Board Member Karen Griffin.

"I live out in the Foothills.  When I got here, you had two school buses a day that they waited on," said Board Member and Clerk Joseph Melchionne.  "Now, it's six, seven or eight out there all the time.  That's not just counting ours, but Carpe Diem has their school busses.  This is where we're moving.  Sooner or later, we're going to need one in the east end."

Two parents told KSWT News 13 they're pulling their kids out of Yuma School District One.  Eliana Osborn and Lara Smith, who have children at Rolle Elementary have lost confidence in the Governing School Board and the school administration.

"I don't trust where they're headed.  I don't think they have our students' best interest at heart," said Osborn.  "This morning, I signed papers to take my son out of Rolle and he'll be attending a school in the Crane School District that has 20 Kindergartners instead of 32 in a classroom.  It's a big decision.  I am a public school teacher and I'm not happy to abandon my public school, but there are simply too many kids and nobody at District One seems to have any solutions."

"They don't look at any other options," says Smith, who has attended every Board meeting and school meeting regarding the Ham School closure. "We already share transportation with the other school districts like high school districts and the San Luis District and we're saving money there.  They keep saying we're saving. We look at Crane District and they have their own transportation.  They have grants for gifted programs.  They have options of half-day Kindergarten.  They have more options and supposedly they're running themselves.  We keep cutting back.  We cut back buildings, we cut back transportation.  We keep cutting and cutting, but I don't see anything going towards the children."


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