Local Schools Struggle to Keep Up With Growth, School Board Asking Voters for Help

By: Tim Ciesco Email
By: Tim Ciesco Email

As the population of Mesa County continues to grow rapidly, School District 51 says it's having a hard time keeping up and schools are becoming overcrowded.

Rocky Mountain Elementary principal David Fricke says it's a problem he knows all too well -- for the sixth straight year, he's had to increase the number of classrooms in each grade level. This year, he had to bring in modular classrooms just to meet the numbers at his school.

"Immediately, we filled both of those, so we're at capacity again," said Fricke. "We're probably at a point where we can't handle much more growth."

He says it shows when you see how they've had to us their space. When Rocky Mountain opened in 1998, it had two designated kindergarten classrooms, complete with bathrooms and open space Fricke says the kids need to learn.

"Now we have five kindergarten classrooms," said Fricke. "Obviously, three of those aren't what we'd want for kindergarten children, but it's the best we can do."

The school also had to add two more fifth grad classrooms this year.

Even with more classrroms, Fricke says they're still having a hard time dealing with increased enrollment, and it's having an impact on how their students learn.

"After a certain point when you're cramming kids in it does become a detriment," said Fricke.

Each of the school's kindergarten classes have at least 24 students in them. Teachers say dealing with and trying to teach that many students is a challenge.

"As a teacher, it's always preferable to have lower class sizes," said Erin McIntyre, a teacher at Rocky Mountain. "That's because you can give more individualized attention to those students."

The school board says it's problems like these that prompted them to take action and ask the people of Mesa County for help. In November, residents will vote on a $185 million school bond, which would build two new high schools, two new elementary schools, and replace a middle school among other things.

"As the community grows, we have to have space to educate our children," said Fricke.

Fricke says for now, they will just have to deal and wait for November.

The $185 million school bond would also be used to help the county purchase new land for schools and make repairs to existing ones.


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