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|School bell at Walter J. Meyer rings to welcome 5th and 6th graders|
|Written by Samantha Munsey|
|Thursday, 16 February 2012 22:34|
Patty Fuller, a schoolteacher at Walter J. Meyer Elementary School wants to bring back students who commute to school outside of Tombstone.
“I want them back,” said Fuller, who has been teaching at the school for the 20 years. “The kids need to be here and should get the chance to go to school in their own town.”
Fuller’s dream will become a reality because at its most recent meeting the Tombstone Unified School District board unanimously approved to reinstate a fifth and sixth grade combination class at Meyer next fall. Currently, Meyer doesn’t offer fifth or sixth grade classes. Students for those grades must go to Huachuca City Elementary School.
“We’re bringing back these grades as a combination class to Tombstone because Huachuca City has had a significant growth in enrollment over the last several years,” said Karl Uterhardt, TUSD superintendent. Enrollment has grown from 347 students to 520 in the last three years.
“We’re hoping that by doing that we can create a bus route and take some of the students to Tombstone and relive some of the pressure from Huachuca City,” Uterhardt said. “Also, it’s good for the community to have a K through sixth grade (school).”
In 2009, the board voted to eliminate fifth and sixth grade classrooms from Meyer, and combine the remaining grades due to budget cuts.
“The first year was very hectic,” Fuller said, who has been teaching 24 children in a third and fourth grade combination class for three years. “You have to teach double, you have to prepare for double and you have to grade for double.”
TUSD estimates that it’s receiving $250,000 less from the state over the past two years, leaving the district to cut corners by creating combination classes and doubling employees’ workloads, according to Uterhardt.
“Having done that for the last couple years, the Tombstone community came in and asked if we could get some grades back,” Uterhardt said. “But when stuff like cuts happen it makes what you want to do difficult to achieve. You really have to look and see if any type of program introduced is possible and worth it.”
When the board approved this three years ago, members were under the pretence that both fifth and sixth grade classes would be reintroduced, if the Huachuca City Elementary School experienced high enrollment or if the district received additional funding.
“When it was voted on to get rid of these grades I was under the impression it was just going to be temporary,” said Tom Yarborough, Huachuca City Elementary School principal.
In order to bring back a fifth and sixth grade combination class to Tombstone, Meyer will hire a new teacher and use an empty classroom already fully equipped. However, Uterhardt also anticipates paying for small renovation fees of around $200 to $300 to get the room in working condition for a class.
Uterhardt agreed with Fuller and said he wants to give Tombstone children the opportunity to complete their elementary school experience where they live.
“I love this school, I was born and raised in Tombstone and I went to this school,” Fuller said. “I think kids here should get to chance to do that too.”