Garfield Re-2 weighs two school closings amid budget concerns
The Garfield County Re-2 School District board this week decided not to rule out two school closures as possible budget-saving measures in light of state cutbacks and voter defeat of a local tax measure last fall.
The board decided Tuesday night the closures of Kathryn Senor Elementary School in New Castle and Wamsley Elementary School in Rifle must continue to be considered as last-resort options, at least until the Colorado Legislature provides a clearer picture of school financing this year.
“Across the board I think the board believes that closing schools is a last option. It’s not something you want to do to a community, to the kids, to a staff,” district spokeswoman Theresa Hamilton said.
Voters defeated a $3 million mill levy override in the district in November. The district previously had cut 23 positions, frozen salaries, imposed furlough days during the 2010–11 school year and cut summer-school programs that weren’t grant-funded.
The district is projecting it will have a fund balance of $12.3 million for the 2012–13 budget year. The board has agreed to use $1 million from that fund during each of the next four years. Dropping it below $8 million could jeopardize the district due to cash-flow fluctuations.
Some other cost-cutting measures the district is considering include increasing fees; reinstituting furlough days; eliminating elementary after-school programs, cooling of gymnasiums and the district recycling program; eliminating or reducing librarian staffing; and reducing bus transportation, middle school sports and high school sports and extracurricular activities.
The board Tuesday agreed to drop the ideas of reducing pre-kindergarten funding and the band/arts program, and eliminating the International Baccalaureate program at Rifle High School.
Closing Kathryn Senor Elementary could save $487,000 to $778,000 a year, and closing Wamsley could save $356,000 to $573,000 a year, not counting some one-time costs, the district estimates.
Reopening them later could cost between $200,000 to $500,000 per school. Hamilton said the district’s long-term growth patterns suggest reopening the schools might be necessary down the road.
Kathryn Senor is the newer of New Castle’s elementary schools. But the other, Elk Creek, is larger, which Hamilton said would make it better able to serve as the town’s only elementary school.
The board hopes to decide on its budget by March 13 so staff can be notified by spring break. However, changes may be required depending on any legislative action later in the spring.