More than 30 concerned residents filled the Fredonia Schools Media Center for the school board meeting on March 2. This time, they were not there to fight the closure of Moccasin School, but to voice their concerns about the fate of the building after the closure.

Because of reduced enrollment at the small school in Moccasin, it was deemed no longer feasible to keep it open. The costs involved in keeping the school open now outweighed the benefits. This seemed understandable to those in attendance.

The big question arose during public comment, “What will the district do with the building?”

Carolyn Grygla read a prepared statement, “We are very concerned with the property if the school is closed.” She stated that the community of Moccasin had provided the “lion’s share” of construction costs and material. 

According to the statement, they had deeded the property to the district in 1951 to be used as a school. No money was exchanged for the deed. The building has been a focal point of the community, being used not only as a school, but also a meeting place, polling place and for other community events and dinners. Grygla requested that the property be deeded back to the community, who would pay for maintenance costs including all taxes. If this was not viable, she suggested the community be allowed to lease the property.

Board member Ron Johnson stated, “I don’t think tonight has anything to do with the disposition of the property. Tonight’s meeting has to do with the disposition of the students.”

The board expressed that they wanted to do what was best for the district and the community, and assured those in attendance that they would research the possibilities and discuss them at the next meeting scheduled for April 6, 2010.

Board Chair Jim Goodnow explained, “[There is] about a $190,000 benefit to the district a year,” if the school is closed. He motioned and the board voted unanimously to close the Moccasin Satellite School beginning the next school year.

Community members asked what the attendance would have to be to consider reopening the school. Superintendant Nicholas Bartlett explained there were many variables involved, but if there were 15-20 students they may reconsider opening the school. He explained that the district’s biggest concern was the students.

Business manager Dorene Mudrow informed everyone that the information and statistics regarding the closure of the school were available for review at the district office.

The board then discussed the possibility of charging students to make up attendance. Bartlett explained that because attendance is one of the major variables in state funding, it is essential that the attendance rate be above 93%. In Arizona, students are only allowed five absences per term. If they go over, the school offers make-up time where they must attend hour for hour what they missed.  Unfortunately, this costs the school money to bring in the extra teachers and open the school on a Friday. 

He stated that other districts and schools have actually begun charging students to be able to make-up the time in order to help cover costs and discourage students from missing school. He asked the board if they might be interested in a program like that.

They expressed concern about families that may not be able to afford it, but also hoped it may encourage them to keep attendance up.

The board agreed to discuss the issue further at the next meeting.