Schools in Eagle and Gypusm getting crowded |

Schools in Eagle and Gypusm getting crowded

Pam Boyd/EnterpriseRed Hill Elementary School in Gypsum is likely to reach its student capacity next school year.

EAGLE COUNTY, Colorado ” The advertisements went out last week ” the Eagle County School District is looking for portable classrooms for its two newest elementary schools.

Enrollment at seven-year-old Red Hill Elementary and Brush Creek Elementary is near capacity, says Phil Onofrio, chief financial officer for the school district.

This year, Red Hill’s enrollment has hit 400 students, and Brush Creek’s enrollment has been only slightly lower.

The school district projects next fall Red Hill’s numbers will swell to 450 ” the building capacity. Brush Creek is projected to grow to around 420 students, with a building capacity of approximately 425.

School officials note that simple numbers don’t tell the whole capacity story. While a school may have room for 450 students in classrooms, its common areas ” such as the playground, cafeteria and hallways ” can be stretched earlier.

Anthony Barela, principal at Red Hill, said student numbers have already sparked discussion among staff. “We are trying to come up with some solutions about how we can use our space more effectively,” he said.

Barela complimented his staff’s willingness to work together. If portable rooms are needed at the school next year, Barela is confident that his teachers will find the best ways to use those classrooms.

As more kids crowd the hallways, Barela said it is more important than ever to make sure school rules and expectations are communicated and followed. With more kids, you need to have more patience, he added.

“As long as we can keep manageable numbers in our classrooms we will be all right. School size is not as important as class size. If you have 25 kids in a classroom, this is manageable. At 35, it’s more difficult.”

While the Gypsum and Eagle communities’ newest schools are topping out, there is space available at their respective older buildings. Eagle Valley Elementary has a building capacity of 450, but next year’s enrollment is estimated at 286. Likewise Gypsum Elementary has a 450-student capacity, with an estimated enrollment of 341.

“We are hoping we can manage it (growing numbers at Red Hill and Brush Creek) without changing boundaries,” Onofrio said.

He noted boundary changes are typically divisive to communities and both schools have other options.

After portable classrooms, the next option is to divide oversized rooms into two classrooms.

As for the long term, think bond property tax increase.

“We do foresee a time when we will have to go to the voters to build a new elementary school on the west end of the district,” Onofrio said.

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