Plan to expand Tempe's Ward Traditional Academy fails on split board vote - East Valley Tribune: East Valley Local News

Plan to expand Tempe's Ward Traditional Academy fails on split board vote

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Posted: Thursday, January 19, 2012 1:34 pm | Updated: 3:18 pm, Thu Jan 19, 2012.

The Tempe Elementary School District will not expand Ward Traditional Academy to the Bustoz Elementary School campus next year after a motion to do so died with the governing board Wednesday night.

On a 2-2 vote, a plan to offer traditional classes for sixth, seventh and eighth grades at the now vacant Bustoz campus - while keeping kindergarten through fifth grade at the Ward campus - failed to pass. Board member Melanie Beikman, whose children attend Ward, recused herself from the vote.

"It is not legally a conflict of interest; her family will not benefit financially. But she felt her participation in the conversation and vote could be viewed as in the best interest of her children and not the district. For that reason she was not part of the discussion," district spokeswoman Monica Allread said.

While all the board members agreed in the benefits and market for the traditional education model, there were concerns about the finances to make expansion of the program possible, Allread said.

Board president Karen Arredondo and board member Sherri Connell voted against the measure. Board vice president Jim Lemmon and board member Rochelle L. Wells voted in favor of it.

Ward Traditional Academy now serves nearly 500 students in grades kindergarten through eighth grade. Last year, about 100 students in grades kindergarten through third grade were turned away because of a lack of space. It is a "school of choice" where families from anywhere in the Valley can apply to attend. The rigorous curriculum is accelerated.

Last spring, the district closed Bustoz - along with Meyer Elementary School and McKemy Middle School - because of declining enrollment and years of budget reductions.

With the defeat of the plan to expand Ward to Bustoz, the district has no immediate long-term options in place for any of the three closed schools. All are available for rent by groups, Allread said.

But the district is continuing to seek more concrete ways those campuses can be used.

"Where the district goes from here is (Superintendent) Chris Busch is working with her leaders to work on comprehensive future planning that would be districtwide. She's using feedback from community members, parents and staff," Allread said. "She did the 100 days of listening and met with hundreds of people, from community groups to (ASU President) Michael Crow."

• Contact writer: (480) 898-6549 or mreese@evtrib.com

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