School district goes after answers for 2008-09 year |

School district goes after answers for 2008-09 year

Scott N. Miller
Bret Hartman/Vail DailyBattle Mountain High School students fill the hallways Thursday before first period on the first day of the new school year.

EAGLE COUNTY – Local schools will probably have a different look at the start of the 2008-’09 school year. Jim Lay hopes that look still includes his neighborhood schools.School district officials have been conducting a series of meetings called “Coming Attractions.” Those meetings offer local parents information about the current state of the district, as well as a look at some of the problems looming in the next few years. The meetings also offer parents a chance to look at, and voice their opinions about, possible solutions to those problems before any decisions are made. And, superintendent John Brendza said, no decisions about the future have been made yet. The “Coming Attractions” meetings will help guide the school board as it considers solutions to coming problems, he said.The biggest problem facing the district is crowding at a handful of schools over the next few years. While most of the district’s schools seem to have plenty of room over the next few years, Meadow Mountain Elementary School is already technically full, and Battle Mountain High School is rapidly approaching its limits. While Gypsum Elementary School is projected to be full in a few years, there’s an easy fix just up valley road. Red Hill Elementary is expected to have plenty of room in the foreseeable future, so moving the schools’ boundary by a couple of blocks should solve the problem.The potential solutions on the eastern end of the valley are more complex. Possibilities include moving either fifth or ninth grade into the middle schools, changing Red Sandstone Elementary and Meadow Mountain Elementary to basically split both schools’ populations between the schools, and turning all the eastern valley schools into “schools of choice,” with each offering a different academic emphasis.

After a presentation about problems and possible solutions by district grant writer Melinda Gladitsch, parents broke into small groups and flitted between several flip charts to discuss pros and cons of various proposals.That’s where Lay, and fellow parents Colleen Gray and Carol Lovell, started hashing out their own ideas.”I’d hate to have my kids bused when they’re a mile away from their elementary school,” said Lay, an Eagle-Vail resident.Lovell lives in Singletree, where many families send their children to the Eagle County Charter Academy. “We have to start somewhere, but this approach with numbers kind of puts off the issues of why kids are moving out of the public schools, which are a lot more heated,” Lovell said.While looking at the various options, the three parents started leaning toward one that would raise their taxes, building a new school.

When he came in, Lay was in favor of building a new high school at Edwards and keeping Battle Mountain High School open. According to school district estimates, both of those schools would then operate at about 50 percent capacity for as long as 10 years.Then school board member Louise Funk gave Lovell, Lay and Gray her speech. While administrators were careful to say they didn’t have any preferences among the options they presented, Funk was free to share her opinions, which she did.While the parents were discussing the pros and cons of building a bigger, brand-new Battle Mountain high at Edwards – one that carries a price tag of about $50 million – Funk made a pitch for her preference.”If we had two high schools, we’d lose services at both schools, and we couldn’t have a state-of-the-art high school,” Funk said. While Lovell and Lay were leery of the prospect of turning Battle Mountain into a school with 1,100 to 1,300 students, Funk said one brand-new high school in the eastern part of the valley would create greater opportunities for advanced classes, more diverse classes, and, in Edwards, more cooperation with Colorado Mountain College on vocational courses.Freeing up the old Battle Mountain high site could also allow the district to move Minturn Middle School’s students to Eagle-Vail and expand Meadow Mountain, Funk said. That could also free up the school at Minturn for a career center, a bigger home for Red Canyon High School, the district’s “alternative” high school, or, perhaps, sale.While acknowleging Funk’s points, Lovell said she still preferred the idea of two smaller schools.

“I’m on the fence,” Lay said. “In an ideal situation, I’d sure like my Eagle-Vail kids to go to elementary and middle school in Eagle-Vail.”While no decisions on big-ticket items are in the pipeline right now, Funk said the school board could start talking about shifting elementary school boundaries as soon as this spring.”It’s very emotional, talking about boundaries,” Funk said. “That could get pretty heated.”Staff Writer Scott N. Miller can be reached at 949-0555, ext. 613, or, Colorado

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