D51 meets with concerned Fruita parents

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FRUITA, Colo. (KKCO)-- For four years in a row, District 51 has made significant cuts to its budget, the last round slicing almost $5.8 million. Thursday, the school district met with some fired up parents in Fruita to explain the numbers, and defend some of the board's financial decisions.

KKCO 11 News exclusively brings you the story as the district addressed a packed house at the Fruita Community Center.

District 51 is already one of the lowest funded districts in the state, and for the school board, making cuts was a matter of choosing solutions that were the least impactful to students, but some Fruita parents feel like their kids are taking on the burden and showed up Thursday armed with a slew of questions.

"It just seems like we need some more help, and we need some more love out here, whether it be with teacher's aids-- however it can be-- but our children are important, and we want them to have a fair chance," Chandra Boulden, a mother of three, said.

Many of the parents were concerned about class sizes and hoped the district would add teachers or aids.

"We just need smaller class sizes. Our classes are so big. Last year's kindergarten classes at Rimrock were 30, and this year they are sitting at 28, and that's just too many little bodies in a classroom," Marisa Torchia, mother and Fairness For Fruita member said.

The district says it's hard because resources are limited, but the plan is to keep an eye on class sizes throughout the year as students transfer in and out of schools.

"None of us want classes that are overburdened, but what we've done is we've responded to some that had class sizes that were very large. We'll continue to monitor that on a month to month basis," Superintendent Steve Schultz said.

For other parents, like Boulden, who has a second grader at Rimrock, the new bus routes are creating problems.

"The boundary being extended to two miles versus the one mile, that essentially eliminates the bus service for a lot, like the buses have four kids on them," she said.

The school board is monitoring buses around the district to make sure all eligible riders have a seat, but it says the process takes time.

"Unfortunately as ridership goes, for a variety of reasons, students who are eligible might not be riding the bus yet, and parents might be driving them for a variety of reasons, and in a couple weeks, they might show up on the bus," Schultz said.

For now, the district wants parents' suggestions so they can work together moving forward, and parents say they're happy to help.

"I feel like all the kids deserve the best education that we can possibly offer them, and whatever we have to do to help further that," Torchia said.

A lot of the Fruita parents expressed concerns with the current grading scale, something the district plans to look into, but for others, adding teachers or aids to cut down on class size would ease the concern.

The district said it is monitoring its class sizes to try to keep them low, but adding resources is hard on what's been described as a shoe-string budget.

The district plans to have more of the community meetings throughout the year. The next one is scheduled for November, and officials say most likely it will take place at Grand Junction High School. There will also be a forum in Palisade and one at Central High School.

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