Originally published Tuesday, December 5, 2017 at 03:57p.m.

COTTONWOOD – Cottonwood-Oak Creek School District is not interested in closure.

For the district, especially for Superintendent Steve King, the possibility of merging Dr. Daniel Bright School (K-2), Cottonwood Elementary School (grades 3-5) and Cottonwood Middle School (grades 6-8) into two K-8 schools is about maximizing space.

As of the district’s Nov. 29 public forum, King says the district has completed a “preliminary scan of the schools.”

Though he’s quick to say that “nothing has been decided,” the district is “focusing on keeping Dr. Daniel Bright and Cottonwood Middle School open,” King says.

If all goes as the district leadership is considering, Cottonwood Elementary School would be repurposed, King says. Possibly as an early childhood education center. Possibly as a school similar to South Verde High School, a Camp Verde school for students who usually struggle to fit in at a more traditional school.

But talk is different from action, King says. Nothing has been decided.

“Once we get more specific on which sites we would be using, and how the attendance would look,” says Dave Snyder, the district’s director of business services.

Five of the nine buildings at Cottonwood Elementary are modular, with two of the other four at least 60 years old.

“Those buildings have done us great service,” King says. “But they’re showing signs of age. So we’re looking to realign for the new realities.”

Of the main reasons that Cottonwood-Oak Creek is considering such a move is the combined 35 empty buildings at Dr. Daniel Bright, Cottonwood Elementary and Cottonwood Middle schools.

The other is the superintendent’s belief that K-8 schools are a way to decrease the amount of transition – new schools – for its students. But King says he understands K-8 schools “will not solve all the problems.”

“But it will give us the ability to create supportive schools that address all the needs of the children in a more effective way, as well as the needs of their families and the community.”

As King and his administrative team continues to look toward the internal merger, the next step is to consider who attends the three affected schools.

Would the district utilize traditional district/school boundaries, a modified open enrollment or a completely open enrollment?

Since each of the three schools serves a finite population, each educates children from across the entire district.

One benefit to basing a school’s population on boundaries is obvious – at least to King.

Children could either ride their bikes to school – or they could walk to school.

The district will hold its final public forum of 2017 at 6 p.m. Wednesday, Dec. 13 in the gymnasium at the Cottonwood-Oak Creek School District Office, located at 1 N. Willard St. in Cottonwood.

At the Nov. 22 meeting, more than 50 parents, teachers and community members were in attendance. At the Nov. 29 meeting, about 30 –most were district staff, King says.

“I’d like to see more people come and ask questions,” King says.

Call 928-634-2288 for more information.

-- Follow Bill Helm on Twitter @BillHelm42