No Consolidation For Small Rural School Districts

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The consolidation of Pine, Strawberry and Tonto Basin school districts into one single Payson Unified School District will not be on November's ballot.

Dave Nicks, with the Arizona Department of Education said, "It's just not going to happen."

Nicks made the statement after being asked if there was any reason for students and parents to be prepared for a possible consolidation of the districts into the Payson Unified School District.

A representative with the state department of education said that at this point, the state has no plans to consolidate any schools in the Strawberry, Pine or Tonto Basin districts into the Payson school district.

A representative from state superintendent Tom Horn's office said the redistricting commission was formed in 2005 to examine Arizona's school districts and make recommendations on consolidation, but it has no plans to recommend consolidation of any schools in the Payson area at this time.

John Ketchem, principal and district superintendent of the Tonto Basin School District, said "The issue surrounding consolidation is really centered in and around Maricopa and Pinal counties, not here in the Rim Country or Gila County, or at all for that matter."

"There are a lot of districts in Phoenix which have multiple elementary schools, and the districts in their immediate areas want to consolidate those schools into one of the surrounding districts to save money."

Saving taxpayer money is what school district consolidation is all about, but would consolidation of schools in Gila County really save any money?

Ketchem said he doesn't think it would.

"We already have an intergovernmental agreement with the Payson Unified School District. I give them my order for supplies, and they fill it when they get their own orders filled, since they buy their supplies in bulk, the savings are already there."

Ketchem added that if consolidation were to happen, much of the perceived savings would be eaten up in bussing students to and from surrounding areas like Strawberry, Pine and Tonto Basin to Payson's schools.

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