Emotional plea to keep Redlands elementary school open

By: Tim Ciesco Email
By: Tim Ciesco Email

GRAND JUNCTION, Colo. (KKCO) - As School District 51 mulls future budget cuts, one local community is making an emotional plea -- don't close our school.

There wasn't an empty seat -- and virtually no standing room -- at the Basil T. Knight Tuesday night as nearly 100 parents, students, teachers, and other members of the Scenic Elementary community packed the school board meeting.

"You can't replace Scenic," said Jenny Hall, PTO President at Scenic Elementary. "There's no other place like Scenic. It's a big community and we're a family."

School District 51 says its funding picture for the next few years is not looking good, which means it will probably have to make more cuts down the road. As they move forward, officials say they will have to take factors such as enrollment into consideration, potentially making cuts in the places where there are fewer students.

Earlier this month, district staff identified the three Redlands elementary schools as places that have seen significant drops in enrollment. Of the three, Scenic has the fewest students.

"It's not going to be an easy decision to make," said Board Member Cindy Enos-Martinez. "I don't know when we'll make a decision, but we still have a lot of work ahead of us before that's even made."

The board says it will continue to explore any and all options and stresses that school closures are not a done deal at this point.

"You're affecting students, you're affecting families, you're affecting the community, and you're affecting the staff," said Enos-Martinez. "It's a very difficult decision and nothing we really like doing."

With tears in their eyes, members of the crowd told the school board about Scenic's outstanding performance record, how its unique open layout improves the learning experience, and how it's dedicated staff and parent volunteers have made it one of the top "school of choice" schools in the Valley, among other things. They just hope their stories got through to board members and continue to get through to them as they make decisions in the future.

"It's emotional to think that there's something that's a legacy that might one day no longer be here," said former Scenic student Hannah Martinez. "I think it's really important to everybody."

District officials say whatever path the discussions take, they plan to keep it a very open process and communicate with anyone that could be impacted.


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