Redlands schools lose pupils, gain classrooms

End-of-the-school-year enrollment data show Rocky Mountain Elementary School is at risk of brimming over capacity in the next few years, while elementary schools in the Redlands have room to spare.

The 20,596 students enrolled in District 51 this May, down from 20,882 students in October, are mostly evenly spread out throughout the district, District 51 Executive Director of Support Services Melissa Callahan DeVita told school board members Tuesday at a board meeting. But not at Scenic, Broadway and Wingate elementary schools on the Redlands, where enrollment has dropped by a total 60 students since 2007-08.

Some schools in the area are so flush with space that a few teachers have one classroom with the square footage of what would otherwise be two classrooms, or they have class in one room and store books in another, DeVita said.

“If they have the space, they’ll fill it, but it’s probably not the most efficient use of space,” DeVita said.

Middle school and high school enrollment in the area hasn’t suffered as drastic a loss. Board member Diann Rice, whose district covers part of the Redlands, said homes in that area aren’t selling well and those that are aren’t often going to families with elementary-age children.

“Homes in the Redlands are more expensive than homes to the east or in Fruita, so younger families can’t afford them,” she said.

Rice asked DeVita to continue to offer the board enrollment updates and to let members know whether any school gets so bare that it may be time to close it.

At Rocky Mountain Elementary School, meanwhile, enrollment is more than 100 students in each of its three youngest grades. The school could easily be at or over capacity in two or three years, DeVita said.

The school had 552.5 students (kindergartners are counted as half students) in May. The school capacity is 592 students.

DeVita said placing more modular units outside the school could help with crowding. But because the school already has some modulars, the new ones would have to be farther away from the school, which would make it harder to connect the units to utilities, she said.

“I’m worried it will be one of our fullest schools with one of our largest free and reduced lunch populations,” DeVita said.

DeVita also mentioned the school district owns 20 acres of land next to the school if Rocky Mountain needed to spread out. That space was purchased with the intent of eventually building a middle school there if needed, Superintendent Steve Schultz said.


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