Delta County School Unlikely to Close But Could Lose Grades

By: Tim Ciesco Email
By: Tim Ciesco Email

DELTA, Colo. (KKCO) - It's crunch time for Delta County Schools as they work to finalize a list of proposed budget cuts. But it now appears the total closure of a school will not be among them.

Facing a $2.3 million budget shortfall, Delta County School District 50J had said it was seriously considering closing the K-8 Crawford School due to declining enrollment numbers. The school currently has about 100 students, down from about 160 seven years ago -- making it difficult to justify the school's operational costs, officials say.

During a meeting Monday night, the district's budget task force decided to instead recommend moving the 6th, 7th, and 8th grade students to Hotchkiss and keeping Crawford open as an elementary school. The move would save the district $209,738.

The majority of Crawford residents have come out in support of keeping the school as is. They argue their property taxes more than pay for the school's operating expenses and worry what kind of an impact the long bus ride to Hotchkiss will have on their kids' learning.

They also point out Crawford School consistently has the top CSAP scores in the district and that the school was recently named a Colorado School of Distinction.

While they admit they're glad they'll likely get to keep a school, they worry what kind of precedent this could set if the district runs into more budget problems down the road.

""It's hard for the kids to think every year, are we on the cuts again?" said Amy Peebles, a Crawford school parent. "How many kids are we going to lose? How many grades are we going to lose? How many teachers are we going to lose? And so it's a frustration because it's just lose, lose, lose, lose."

Other cuts the task force will recommend include charging transportation and activity fees district wide, eliminating open teaching and staff positions, and having staff take one furlough day.

"There's no wonderful ideas on the table as far as ideas that don't have some impact on students, staff, parents, and communities," said Mike McMillan, Superintendent of School District 50J. "So there really are no winners on the list."

The Crawford School consolidation was the final item to make the task force's list. Officials say it may be possible, if revenue projections stay where they're at, for the school board to cut enough before getting to that option.

District officials say they're also encouraged by the latest state economic forecast, which shows the state may receive an additional $161 million in revenues. Governor John Hickenlooper has indicated he would like to see that money go towards K-12 education.

"The exact figures we don't know and probably won't know for a couple of weeks," said McMillan. "But we've received that as excellent news. We've projected at least a one percent reduction here tonight and for us that's $300,000."

The budget task force will make their final report to the school board at the beginning of April.


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