Although still divided, the Mohave Valley School Board voted last night to start the process to ‘close’ the school district’s oldest school at the end of the current school year. On a 3-1 vote, the board voted to direct school district administrators to hold a public hearing next month on the possible closure of Mohave Valley Elementary School (MVES), which first opened its doors 49 years ago. The public hearing will be held on Mar. 12 and at that time the school board will vote on whether or not to proceed with the planned closure. Despite the fact that she had promised not to vote to close any school, board President Rose Vera is the only board member who changed their position from previous meetings, which had resulted in numerous 2-2 tie votes on the subject. Vera claimed the board really isn’t closing the school, but rather moving the students to the district’s three other campuses. The MVES campus will still be used for professional development and other administrative functions. The school’s cafeteria and bus barn will also continue to operate, but the classrooms will be vacant. Vera joined fellow board members Lisa Fulton and Dr. Emmett Brown, a former superintendent of the Mohave Valley district, in voting to move forward with the closure of MVES. Board member Jason Evan continued his opposition to the proposal. He cited the lack of measurements to determine if the proposed changes works to better student achievement as his primary reason for voting against the changes. Arizona law requires the school district to hold a public hearing prior to closing a campus. It also requires the district to mail letters to all parents informing them of the public hearing. In addition to beginning the process of closing Mohave Valley Elementary, the board also approved school district superintendent Whitney Crow’s plan to reorganize the three other schools to band all the different grades into specific schools. Preschool, kindergarten, first and second grade students will attend Fort Mojave Elementary school. Grades 3-5 will be taught at Camp Mohave Elementary while sixth graders will join seventh and eighth grade students at Mohave Valley Junior High School. The decision to close one school and ‘grade-band’ the districts remaining campuses allows the district to make up for a project $450,000 budget shortfall next year. Declining enrollment is to blame for the reduction in state funding. While the vote was strictly expected to center on the organization of the district, Brown successfully lobbied his colleagues to add a provision to the motion passed by the board to use $150-$200,000 in next year’s budget to go directly to supplementing teacher salaries. Crow had indicated that administrators were already looking into that possibility. The board’s decision to close MVES was not well received by members of the Fort Mojave Indian Tribe, whose members make up roughly one-third of the student enrollment at MVES. While taking direct aim at state lawmakers in Arizona, tribal chairman Timothy Williams used the meeting to announce that the tribal council has decided to take matters into their own hands. Using their own resources, primarily from their business interests—most notably the Avi Hotel and Casino in Nevada, the tribe will be creating its own educational system, including a new school exclusively for tribal members. He estimated it will take at least two years for them to establish their own school and curriculum. He suggested it should be open and running no later than 2019. Williams said it was a difficult decision for him personally because he attended MVES as a child, but his frustration, as well as that of the tribal council, with the state is forcing the tribe to take action.