Panel: Patch holes until school bond passes

A committee tasked with exploring overcrowding management recommended to the School District 51 Board of Education that it address the immediate needs at the most crowded schools with temporary measures until a bond to build schools is passed by voters.

The committee Tuesday night presented to the school board a list of the most crowded schools and cost of options at each school. The recommendations included adding a modular classroom at Pomona Elementary for $175,000 and rearranging student schedules at Grand Mesa Middle School in two grades to free up classroom space.

The committee opted for less drastic options than other alternatives, such as year-round schooling and seeking out commercial space to lease as school grounds.

“The committee has come back with the same reality we did. We were hoping more heads could come up with some different conclusions, board President Leslie Kiesler said. “We’re stuck between a rock and a hard place.”

The most sweeping recommendations were for Rim Rock Elementary, which is 175 students over capacity. Ideas include moving the fifth grade to another school and adding more teachers.

Central High School is 145 students over capacity, and the committee recommended expanding the lunch area, offering more early and evening classes to students and working with Mesa State College to expand the Fast Track program.

The program allows graduating seniors who have completed their requirements to take college courses at Mesa State during their spring semester. Fruita City Councilwoman Stacey Mascarenas, who sat on the committee, said the college is receptive to the idea of providing space for seniors to finish required courses on the college campus and be in the Fast Track program for the entirety of their senior year.

Mascarenas said spaces such as old grocery stores and church space is expensive to lease and remodel for classrooms, and there are safety concerns.

Kevin LaDuke, a teacher at Orchard Mesa Middle School, also sat on the committee. He said alternative scheduling such as split session and year-round schooling would be too expensive to implement and could not work for all grade levels.

“You pretty much double your costs,” LaDuke said of alternative scheduling.

The district amended its original 2 percent growth projection from the beginning of the year down to 1 percent, which still puts the district over capacity next year.

Melissa Callahan deVita said the national economy has made growth projections uncertain because families are moving in and out because of job loss.

The district knows it will lose some funding from the state as well for the 2009-10 budget, which makes finding money for the growth options difficult, Superintendent Tim Mills said.

“I recommend budgeting for zero growth,” Callahan deVita said of the 2009-10 budget. “It’s
easier to spend additional money than it is to take it out.”


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