Revenue boost cuts local school anxiety

There will be no immediate switch from a five-day to a four-day school week in School District 51, and the possibility of closing Scenic Elementary School has been avoided for the time being, thanks to the improving state revenue picture.

We’re happy the notion of a four-day school week has been dismissed once again. The pressure it would put on working families, for whom a five-day week is the norm, would have been tremendous.

Add to that the complications with things like school athletics and the fact there is no clear consensus on how it affects academics, and the four-day school week amounted to a questionable cost-savings measure that is best avoided.

The District 51 school board unanimously rejected the idea Tuesday after Superintendent Steve Schultz informed the board that the state Legislature is expected to provide state funding to Colorado school districts at the same level in the next fiscal year as it is in the current year.

That means cuts of up to $4 million that had been projected for District 51 due to a loss of state money will no longer be necessary.

However, the district still needs to make several million dollars in cuts due to increased costs for retirement benefits and an expected drop in student enrollment next fall.

A committee put together by the school board to recommend potential cuts is scheduled to make its recommendations to the board on April 17.

It’s no great surprise that the school board decided to keep Scenic Elementary open, now that it appears cuts won’t have to be a severe as previously anticipated.

Closing the popular school would have angered many families whose children now attend Scenic or have done so in the past, and it would have provoked a distracting community fight.

However, the board’s decision Tuesday evening to shift Fruita elementary students among Shelledy, Rim Rock and Loma elementary schools leaves a significant problem unresolved.

While that shifting should temporarily ease overcrowding in Fruita-area elementary schools, Broadway Elementary School and Scenic Elementary still have student populations well below their capacity. Unless there is a massive change soon in where people choose to live in this valley, the school district will eventually have to adopt unpopular boundary changes in school attendance areas or consider closing under-utilized schools.

For now, though, the disruption in most families’ lives will be minimal. Thanks to Colorado’s improving economy and its revenue picture, District 51 can avoid the massive disruption that would come with switching to a four-day week, keep all school buildings open and concentrate its efforts on how best to educate some 20,000 students.


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