Declining Student Numbers Could Spell Future School Closures

By: Tim Ciesco Email
By: Tim Ciesco Email

GRAND JUNCTION, Colo. (KKCO) - Though the painful process of making cuts for next school year is likely over, School District 51 says it will probably have to make more cuts down the road. A key factor in those decisions could be enrollment, which has some Redlands parents on edge.

Scenic Elementary mom and PTO President Jenny Hall doesn't have a bad thing to say about her school.

"It's a community that you can't find somewhere else," said Hall. "We're very tight, we're very family oriented, and we have great parent volunteers here."

That's why she hopes things won't drastically change there in the near future.

In a report made to the District 51 School Board Tuesday, district staff identified elementary schools on the Redlands as places that have seen significant drops in enrollment.

"Our demographer shows that that trend is going to continue," said Christy McGee, a spokesperson for School District 51. "That's one of the areas we need to look at and evaluate whether we're using our resources efficiently and what that looks like."

It may be too early to say for sure what that looks like beyond the 2011-2012 school year, but officials say as long as they have to keep making cuts, nothing is off the table -- including the option of closing schools that become too expensive to operate based on the number of students enrolled there.

"It's a big decision," said McGee. "We're not going to take anything like that lightly. It's been our intent and the way we operate to communicate with impacted parties openly and honestly. That would be our goal."

Though no decision about closing schools has been made or carefully studied at this point, Hall says it's fear that lingers in her mind.

"We understand that District 51 had had to make some insane cuts," said Hall. "We know it's not fun and we know they're not liking it. We're just asking they give us an opportunity to see what we can do, see what options are out there before we close a school."

At their next meeting on June 21, district staff and board members will discuss possible cost cutting measures for the 2012-2013 school year, which officials say will likely include some piece of the Redlands enrollment issue. They point out it will be an informal discussion and that no official action will be taken.

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