School district addressing school diversity | VailDaily.com

School district addressing school diversity

EAGLE COUNTY — Schools in Eagle County are dominated by two ethnic groups — Hispanic and white — and if a schools’ student body is dominated by one or another, then the school district wants to take steps to shift it.

The school district wants that percentage to be no higher than 75 percent at each school in the next five years.

Superintendent Jason Glass is taking the lead on increasing diversity.

“It’s a timely topic. The school district is responsible for the demographics in all its schools, not just one school,” Glass said.

“This is a complex topic that involves community issues, economic issues and cultural issues. This is not easy work.”Jason GlassSuperintendent, Eagle County Schools

By 2020, the ethnic enrollment of each school will be made up of at least 25 percent Hispanic and/or 25 percent white — no less that 25 percent in either of the two main demographic groups.

“Many schools are there already. Others have some ways to go,” Glass said.

The theory goes like this: If enrollment demographics were more balanced in Eagle County schools to loosely reflect the larger demographics of the community, then it would close the achievement gap, improve critical thinking and improve community. Glass cited all sorts of research proving his point.

“We’re moving in the right direction. This is an achievable goal,” said Carrie Benway, school board president.

How they might do it

They’ll start with programs like free and reduced lunch, and open enrollment.

They’re also working with the Eagle County Charter Academy and the Vail Ski & Snowboard Academy, the school district’s two least diverse schools.

“How would we make snow sports as accessible in our community as sports such as soccer? If we invested as heavily in snow sports as we do in other sports, what would that look like?” Glass asked.

The charter academy is reaching out, going so far as to knock on doors in Hispanic neighborhoods. They need help from the school district, Glass said.

“This is a complex topic that involves community issues, economic issues and cultural issues. This is not easy work,” Glass said.

Neighborhood schools

They might consider shifting attendance areas. The bigger your attendance area, the more diverse your population tends to be.

“Our system is producing exactly what it was designed to produce — small neighborhood schools,” Glass said.

For now, schools tend to reflect their neighborhoods, such as Avon Elementary (85 percent Hispanic) and Brush Creek Elementary (82 percent white).

Those demographic gaps shrink in middle schools and disappear in high schools, as students are drawn from wider areas.

As far as open enrollment goes, they’ve been able to accommodate everyone who wanted to send their kids to different schools.

The school board is taking a long-term view, said school board member Kate Cocchiarella. Progress is apparent, but they might not get there while any of them are on the board, she said.

Staff Writer Randy Wyrick can be reached at 970-748-2935.