School zoning in Fruita up in air

District leaders did not confirm during a meeting Tuesday at Rim Rock Elementary when attendance boundaries will change for Fruita elementary students or which neighborhood exactly will be affected by the change.

Those decisions have yet to be made, District 51 Assistant Director of Elementary Schools Lesley Rose told 32 parents and children who attended the question and answer session Tuesday evening in the school’s cafeteria. Rose said input from parents will help the district form a boundary transition plan. The district also hosted a meeting Monday evening for Shelledy parents with questions about the boundary change.

“Our plan is to meet (with the public) in the fall and again and again or in a small group and make the decision early,” Rose said Tuesday.

District 51 School Board members voted last month to shift some Rim Rock students on the east-west border with Shelledy Elementary to Shelledy and bus some Shelledy students living south of Interstate 70 to Loma Elementary. The transition may begin as early as 2013-14, Rose said, but the district has not determined who will transition when. Students new to the district or kindergarten students, for example, may start to shift schools sooner than older students or students with siblings at either school.

Rose said the district also will seek parent input on where the new boundary lines should be drawn. The district has so far released only a map with circles around the general areas where boundaries will change. Rose told a parent who asked why the map isn’t more specific that releasing a map too early may “stir more emotions” among parents worried about the boundary changes.

Rim Rock Parent-Teacher Organization member Marisa Torchia said during the meeting she doesn’t know whether her two children will be impacted by the boundary changes.

But she is already seeing the effects of the problem that led to the boundary changes: overcrowding. Her daughter’s kindergarten class has 30 students, which she said is a strain on the students and the teacher. She doesn’t want to add another strain to her children by having them go to a new school.

“Let’s move teachers around instead,” she suggested. “It bothers me there are schools in the Redlands with 13 kids” in one kindergarten class.

Rose confirmed there is a kindergarten class at Broadway Elementary with 13 students. Rim Rock Parent-Teacher Organization Vice President Emily Lintott said after the meeting she hopes more funds are distributed to schools that have packed classes so those schools can get more teachers and staff.

“We’re larger than any other elementary school or middle school and we have only one assistant principal,” Lintott said. “The staff doesn’t fit our need.”

Torchia said she fears any boundary changes will only solve crowding in the short-term.

If the Fruita area continues to grow, a bond issue may be proposed to pay for a new school. Rose said a bond issue would have to be voted on by everyone in District 51 boundaries, not just Fruita voters, and the district isn’t sure when the timing will be right for another bond attempt.

The last one failed as the economy collapsed in 2008.

Lintott said 70 percent of adults in the Grand Valley don’t have children in school, which she believes may hurt the chances of a bond passing.

“I hate to put it forward and it doesn’t pass,” she said.


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