School board challenged |

School board challenged

Matt Terrell
Vail CO, Colorado

EAGLE ” The county commissioners have a few challenges for Eagle County School District.

One ” invest in Stratton Flats, the proposed affordable housing development in Gypsum. Two ” pump more money into the Youth Foundation, which operates a long list of programs benefiting at-risk children. And three ” work more closely with nonprofit groups to share vital information about kids.

The county commissioners met with the school board Wednesday to discuss goals shared by the groups and how they can work together to make them happen.

Commissioner Arn Menconi told the school board that the middle class in Eagle County is shrinking, and one way to combat that is to put money into affordable housing. The county wants the school district to be a partner in Stratton Flats, a neighborhood of 336 homes ” 226 of them carrying deed restrictions, and a third of those with price caps.

The school district does see affordable housing as a problem, especially since many teachers move out of the valley because of high rents and home prices.

In March, the district became a major investor in the West End, a proposed development in Edwards that will include 72 affordable homes. The board approved securing at least seven homes in the West End for about $35,000, and the district would gain its investment back as it sells the homes to teachers or staff.

The district at that time had considered investing around $500,000 in Stratton Flats, securing about 25 homes it could sell at reduced prices to teachers. The school board delayed approval of the partnership, wanting to survey teachers to make sure they would be interested in the homes.

The board will likely reconsider Stratton Flats in the near future, but will want an update on the development’s financial situation, board president Scott Green told the commissioners.

The commissioners also encouraged the school district to give money to the Youth Foundation, which recently announced a fundraising shortfall that’s endangering its largest program.

The After School Literacy program, which provided homework help and tutoring to hundreds of students last year, was saved by last-minute pledges by The Vail Valley Foundation and Eagle County.

The school board will decide if it will contribute to the Youth Foundation at its next meeting.

The commissioners said they’re also eager for the school district to pilot a data-sharing program with various nonprofit groups around the county. Menconi said after-school programs work ” but we need to track them. The database would use standardized test scores and other information to help match students with one of the many programs offered by nonprofit groups and track their progress.

It would make sure that students who need the most help are finding the appropriate programs, and it would help gauge if those programs are having an effect, said Andre Birjulin, director of research and evaluation for the school district.

It also would help identify students who may need the help of an after-school program, but for some reason, have been overlooked, said superintendent Sandra Smyser.

School officials say they’ll be testing this system during this school year, and could roll out a more complete program by the spring or next school year.

Staff Writer Matt Terrell can be reached at 970-748-2955 or

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