Schools schedule stays as is

Scenic Elementary spared budget ax

Fresh news that the state legislature will likely hold off on budget cuts to District 51 this year persuaded the district’s school board members to stick with a five-day school week and keep Scenic Elementary School open this fall.

District 51 Superintendent Steve Schultz said near the start of a school board meeting Tuesday evening he confirmed earlier that day that the state Legislature’s Joint Budget Committee will propose funding Colorado school districts at the same level in 2012-13 as the state did in 2011-12. With the previous threat of a $2 million to $4 million cut in state funding for the district’s general fund virtually off the table, Schultz recommended board members halt pursuit of “extreme measures,” including a school closure or adopting a four-day school week, to save money.

Board members took Schultz’s advice and voted unanimously to forgo a four-day school week this fall. The board will formulate a specific calendar for 2012-13 over the next few weeks and adopt it this spring, School Board President Greg Mikolai said.

Board members also voted 5-0 to shift students in two neighborhoods on the east-west border between Rim Rock and Shelledy elementary schools from Rim Rock to Shelledy and send students from south Fruita to Loma Elementary instead of Shelledy. The board considered shifting students at Rim Rock and Shelledy in order to alleviate crowding at those schools.

Board member Harry Butler said he suggested the board adopt the boundary change with a switch to Loma Elementary for south Fruita students because he said it would be an easier bus route to take students from that area to Loma Elementary instead of Broadway Elementary, which had been suggested as another location to send south Fruita students. Butler said he also took to heart testimony earlier in the meeting from a Fruita mom, Jami Petree, who said sending students to a different school outside the Fruita/Loma area would isolate children from other kids in town.

The board stated earlier this month Scenic Elementary would be safe from closure if attendance boundaries shifted south Fruita students to Broadway because half-empty Broadway would not have room to absorb the majority of Scenic’s students in the event of a closure. Even though the board decided to move the students to Loma, they adopted the boundary change resolution with the caveat that Scenic will remain open next school year.

Schultz said the district will work with principals at the affected schools to sort out a time-line for gradually transitioning students from Rim Rock to Shelledy and from Shelledy to Loma.

Although a four-day week and Scenic’s closure are moot, budget cuts are still on the way. The board still expects it will have to cut $1 million from the general fund to pay for a state-mandated increase in retirement benefit contributions. Another $1 million may have to be cut to fund capital projects, including maintenance work and the district’s computer lease, at the same level as 2011-12. The district had an unexpected surplus of $1 million in reserves last June that it spent on decreasing the $3.3 million from the general fund that it would usually transfer to the Capital Projects Fund.

In addition, $1 million to $2 million may be cut in anticipation of an enrollment decrease this fall.


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