No school, no community?
Vail, CO Colorado
VAIL, Colorado – With its pedestrian-only villages, large parking structures, astronomical real estate and large second-home owner population, some would argue that Vail’s identity is more that of a resort than a community.
And without a public school in town, many are making the argument that Vail would almost certainly lose its identity as a community.
The Eagle County School Board is scheduled to talk about closing Red Sandstone Elementary, the only public school in Vail, at a meeting this week. The school district is facing a $5.5 million budget shortfall, and Red Sandstone is one of three schools the district plans to look at closing – June Creek Elementary and Avon Elementary are the other two. Other cost-saving measures are staff reductions, said Phil Onofrio, the school district’s chief financial officer.
Parents and community members in Vail have written letter after letter to both the school board and the Vail Daily in support of keeping the school open. They cite a strong academic program and dedicated faculty as just two of many reasons why the school shouldn’t close.
Another point that has been made time and time again is that a school makes a community.
“By closing Red Sandstone, Vail will become a resort valley with supporting bedroom communities,” wrote Heather and Chris Chantler, of Vail. “Many of us moved away from that lifestyle to raise our children with a view of Vail Mountain. Please do not take that away from us, for you will be taking away the future of Vail and the incentive for new families to move to the Vail Valley.”
That’s why Michelle Hall, a West Vail resident whose daughter went to Red Sandstone and is now at Battle Mountain High School, feels the school is so important.
“You see these kids standing at the bus stop – these people made an investment to live here,” Hall said. “I see the families that have moved into the affordable housing – you won’t see those families standing out there, walking home from the bus stop (if the school closes).”
Hall said Red Sandstone would be the third public school to close that she has seen, the last one being Minturn Middle School, which affected that community, she said.
“Watching Minturn go through this still makes me sad,” Hall said.
While Hall said there are many neighborhoods that have their own feel in town – West Vail, East Vail, Sandstone and Buffehr Creek, to name a few – without an incentive for young families to be in town, the community feeling could dissipate.
“I don’t want it to turn into a bunch of rentals and second homes,” Hall said.
She points to the West Vail Fire Station as a project that shows the community spirit of Vail. It took about 30 years to get it built, but people pulled together to see it through, she said.
That sense of community is something several Vail Town Council members talked about during their campaigns for office. Councilman Greg Moffet and Mayor Andy Daly have been very vocal on the subject, and both would pursue the idea of bringing a charter school to the Red Sandstone property, which the town owns, should the district decide to close Red Sandstone.
Pursuing a charter school isn’t the council’s preferred alternative, however – members would rather see Red Sandstone remain open as a district school.
Councilwoman Susie Tjossem told the district that closing Red Sandstone would thwart the town’s efforts to attract young families back to Vail through its affordable-housing initiatives. An elementary school is part of the “package,” Tjossem said.
The school board is scheduled to discuss its budget shortfall and cost-saving scenarios at its Wednesday meeting in Eagle.
Community Editor Lauren Glendenning can be reached at 970-748-2983 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
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