Gilbert Public Schools considers closing Houston Elementary, moving Neely Traditional Academy

Jason Martin
Jason Martin, elementary education executive director for Gilbert Public Schools, tells the governing board March 2 about a proposal to close Houston Elementary School and move Neely Traditional Academy to the Houston campus. (Screen capture from YouTube)

Jason Martin, elementary education executive director for Gilbert Public Schools, tells the governing board March 2 about a proposal to close Houston Elementary School and move Neely Traditional Academy to the Houston campus. (Screen capture from YouTube)

The Gilbert Public Schools governing board studied at its March 2 meeting the effects of school changes for the fall that would close one school and move another into its campus.

Under the proposal, intended to help the district manage enrollment in the western portion of the district, Houston Elementary School would close, and Neely Traditional Academy, which has no school boundaries, would move onto the Houston campus.

Additionally, Burk Elementary School’s boundary would grow to encompass the current Houston boundary. Current Houston students would get the choice to attend Burk or Neely, and staff would get priority on openings at those schools and for other district openings, Elementary Education Executive Director Jason Martin said. All would be guaranteed employment in the district.

The board could vote on the proposal at its March 30 board business meeting.

Neely’s enrollment had been mostly stable before COVID-19, but Burk and Houston had declining enrollment before the pandemic, dating back 15 years, according to the district presentation.

Martin said Burk had the capacity to take the Houston students, and that Houston, the largest facility in the district’s western portion, was the only campus big enough to house Neely, which has an aging facility that needs about $3 million in investments over five years without adding more classrooms.

Additionally, Martin said Neely has waiting lists at some grade levels, not enough bathrooms for its size and no ability to offer a prekindergarten program, issues the move could address.

Students from Houston would get the ability to bus to Burk if they live more than a mile from that campus, Martin said. The district is meeting with the town of Gilbert to mitigate other traffic concerns.

The district first notified employees of the proposed changes in early February and have since held some meetings with community members. Martin said the feedback from the community was mostly positive.

One question community members asked was what the name would be as Neely moves campuses, but the decision has not been made, Martin said.

However, Superintendent Shane McCord, a former principal at Houston, said he did not favor a different name with so many other changes happening and with the Neely name being well-recognized in the traditional academy community.

McCord suggested Houston’s history could be honored in other ways, and Martin said a space on the campus would preserve that.
By Tom Blodgett

Editor, Gilbert

Raised in Arizona, Tom Blodgett has spent more than 30 years in journalism in Arizona and joined Community Impact Newspaper in July 2018 to launch the Gilbert edition. He is a graduate of Arizona State University, where he served as an instructional professional in the Walter Cronkite School of Journalism and Mass Communication from 2005-19 and remains editorial adviser to The State Press, the university's independent student media outlet.


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