Fruita growth leads to school changes

Redrawing elementary school boundary lines in the west end of the Grand Valley may help ease crowding as that area grows. But the change is unlikely to solve the issue long-term, according to principals in the area.

District 51 School Board members approved a boundary change Tuesday evening that will send approximately 150 Shelledy Elementary students who live south of Interstate 70 to Loma Elementary and fill Shelledy with about 200 students who attend Rim Rock Elementary and live on the east-west border between Rim Rock and Shelledy.

The district has not determined which homes exactly will be affected by the change.

Rim Rock and Shelledy were expected to have 90 and 82 students, respectively, next school year than they were built to fit. How many students the schools will actually have depends on how soon transitions between the schools will begin.

Shelledy Principal Steve States said the district and principals at the affected schools will begin soon to formulate a boundary-transition plan and answer questions parents have been asking, such as: whether siblings will be able to attend the same school; when kindergartners will begin attending a school in accordance with the new boundaries; and whether students in upper elementary grades will have to switch schools.

Rim Rock Principal Tami Kramer said the schools involved will seek community input on the transition plan and will try to make the change as easy as possible for families.

“The good thing is we don’t have to move a big area of families all at once,” as was the case when Rim Rock opened in 2006, she said.

States said overcrowding is likely to remain an issue regardless of the transition timeline. The school lost 3.5 teachers in budget cuts during the last three years as the district’s standard for class sizes increased to 27 students per classroom.

States said if the students who leave Shelledy are replaced by Rim Rock students, he will not be able to deflate class sizes until that standard goes down. Rim Rock may face a similar challenge if new students keep moving to the area.

“Rim Rock and Shelledy are both projected to grow over the next six to seven years,” States said. Without boundary changes, “We would probably be pushing 30 kids in a classroom before we would look at modulars, and modulars aren’t ideal.”

Loma Elementary, which is expected to be 93 students under its 334-student capacity next school year, may face crowding as it takes on as many as 152 more students from south Fruita.

“If we continue to grow, probably eventually we’ll need a new school (in Fruita), but we’ll try to relieve crowding for the time being,” Loma Principal Karen Rigg said.

Tuesday’s boundary-change resolution was accompanied by word the board will not close Scenic Elementary as a budget-cutting measure. Scenic Principal Doug Levinson said kids, parents and staff felt “relief and joy” Wednesday.

He said the school may have an ice cream social soon to celebrate.

“It’s been a roller coaster, but we landed nicely,” Levinson said. “This has made us even more appreciative of what we do and our staff because we came into this year knowing it could all go away.”


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