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TUSD to open middle school at Davis-Monthan

Davis-Monthan Air Force Base, Ariz. -- Tucson Unified School District plans to re-open Lowell Smith School. The district discussed the plans during a town hall meeting Oct. 10.

Bobbe Woods, the principal for Blenman Elementary School and special projects officer for Smith, chaired the meeting and said TUSD's goal is to have a middle school up and running at D-M in time for next fall's classes. Beyond that, plans are still sketchy, but a committee has been formed to work out the details.

Mrs. Woods said Smith, formerly an elementary school, was left in excellent condition, but it will need some renovation to make it ready for a middle school learning environment. For example, there are no science classrooms in the school and the kindergarten classrooms are a bit small for middle school students.

However, other features of the school will match up well with a middle school environment. "There's a beautiful computer room, a huge library, a big cafeteria and a multi-purpose room," Mrs. Woods said.

The school closed after the 2005-06 school year because of low enrollment. Re-opening Smith as a middle school will help address some concerns of D-M parents of middle school students. One of the major issues parents raised was travel - some children are spending more than an hour traveling to school each day.

"The base's priority is to get the school up and running as soon as possible," said Col. Bruce McClintock, 355th Wing vice commander. "This will make life better for our Airmen."

Mrs. Woods said while there would likely be some new teachers hired at the school, many of the faculty will be current TUSD educators.

During the meeting, Mrs. Woods discussed the possibility of re-opening Smith as a "traditional" school. Traditional schools have six components in common: strict discipline; parental involvement; a focus on reading, writing and math; a strong dress code; maximum use of instructional time; and an emphasis on respect and responsibility. In addition to the core curriculum, traditional schools offer electives - often, according to a theme such as language or technology.

Whatever form Smith takes, Mrs. Woods stressed that parents need to be involved in the decision-making process. "I want your input," she said. "I want you to say, 'We did that school, and it's great.'"

At the end of the meeting, parents were invited to sign up to take part in the committee that will chart the course for Smith's future. Lt. Col. Cynthia Richards, the deputy commander for the 355th Mission Support Group, will represent Davis-Monthan during committee meetings.

Updates on the future of Smith School will be published in the Desert Airman as more information becomes available. Commanders and first sergeants will also disseminate updates to their squadrons.