Principals detail difficulty of handling crowding

Finding space to address overcrowding in District 51 schools is a double-edged sword, the board of education heard at its Monday night meeting.

Principals who would be affected in the fall by recommendations unveiled during the board’s last meeting weighed in on the options for their schools, saying more space would be nice but finding it is going to be tough.

Superintendent Tim Mills said the issue of funding additional space is compounded with the district facing a recision from the state of $700,000 from its 2008-09 budget and as much as a $2.3 million in cuts from the 2009-10 budget.

Mills said the district also needs to be clear that adding space is only a short-term option if the district wants to maintain a small schools philosophy.

“I don’t want to add permanent structure,” said Jody Frost, principal of Central High School.

“Once you add permanent structure, it’s that much easier to go to 2,000 (enrollment), and what I hear is, ‘We don’t want schools that big.’ ”

Frost said she would rather flex student schedules by adding classes later in the day and is surveying students on what classes they would prefer to see offered past traditional release times.

Lower grade levels don’t have the flexibility of scheduling afforded to high school students, however, so some elementary schools are looking at installing modular classrooms.

Emma-Leigh Larsen, principal at Pomona Elementary, said her school could use a modular classroom that is in storage at the Career Center, which would alleviate crowding that has forced the school to convert its art room into a fifth-grade classroom.

Some schools, such as Thunder Mountain Elementary, don’t have the land for modular classrooms, said principal Diane Carver, so her school would rearrange space to free up two classrooms.

“After we do this, we will have maxed out every closet, every odd space. Everything will be used for classroom,” said Carver, adding that if her school grew anymore after these measures were put into place, she could see only possibly redrawing attendance boundaries to alleviate crowding.

The board asked for more information on possibly redrawing boundaries to include more Fruita students in Loma Elementary’s attendance area or busing students to the school, which has space, from other schools such as Shelledy and Rimrock elementaries.

Rimrock’s principal, Tami Kramer, said she would rather she more space, either with building additions or modular classrooms, added to her school than the fifth grade level moved to Fruita Middle School because the move would disrupt the school culture.

The board also asked for more details on costs of the recommendations as well as any funding options to build a core facility in the Fruita area and add grades piecemeal as more funding became available.


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