VAIL, Colorado - Red Sandstone Elementary School, the town of Vail's only public school, is at the "top of the list" of Eagle County schools that would close should the school board decide to close schools due to a $5.5 million budget shortfall, School Board Member Brian Nolan told the Vail Town Council Tuesday.
Nolan told the council that the Eagle County School Board hopes to make a decision in January about how to address the shortfall - the options are across-the-board staff reductions or school closures. He stressed several times that he was speaking as a single board member and not on behalf of the board as a whole.
The school board asked Eagle County voters for a tax increase last month to cover the shortfall, but the measure failed. The school board is now faced with the cuts, which Nolan said will be addressed sooner rather than later so more planning can be done in preparation for whatever decision is ultimately made.
The subject is a sensitive one for the Vail Town Council. Mayor Andy Daly and Councilman Greg Moffet specifically talked about the importance of keeping a public school in town in order to maintain a sense of community during their campaigning for the recent election.
Daly said Tuesday the school is a critical part of the community and helps define it. He said the town would work "shoulder-to-shoulder and very aggressively" to make sure the school remains open.
The ownership of the school - the property and facility are owned by the town of Vail and leased by the school district - is what makes it a more attractive candidate for a closure, Nolan said after Vail Homeowners Association Executive Director Jim Lamont said the town should consider alternative uses for the site should the worse-case scenario - closing the school - happen.
If the district closed other facilities that it owns, there would be associated costs for keeping and maintaining those properties. If the district closed Red Sandstone, however, there would be almost no cost to the district, he said.
"It's one of the reasons this school has a light on it," Nolan said.
But Moffet pointed out that the closure would equate to 400 or so less students for the district, and at roughly $7,800 of state funding per student, that cost would be a significant hit. Nolan agreed.
Moffet also suggested that the town could move forward with making Red Sandstone a charter school if the district decides to close it.
But that isn't a decision Vail Town Council members are going to sit back and let happen if they can help it.
"Everybody in this room is on board with keeping Red Sandstone open," Councilwoman Margaret Rogers said. "We are here to do whatever we can to make sure Red Sandstone stays open."
Community Editor Lauren Glendenning can be reached at 970-748-2983 or firstname.lastname@example.org.