Vail Daily letter: Bad plan with schools
Vail, CO Colorado
I am a registered voter, taxpayer and parent of three children in the Eagle County School District.
I am dismayed by the recent decision of the school district, which was approved by the school board, to close Minturn Middle School and Meadow Mountain Elementary School.
The district plans to spend $19 million to combine those two schools into a singe, K-8 school to be located in the old Battle Mountain High School building adjacent to I-70.
Although the district has stated that it places an importance on smaller community schools, they have decided to close Minturn Middle School, a true gem of a community school. This decision is a travesty!
Minturn Middle School is a wonderful little school that embodies the culture of the outdoors and provides both an opportunity to commune with nature and to have an adventurous existence, which are right in line with the reasons why many of us have chosen to live here.
This perfect little school should be saved both because of its rare and amazing location (remote and in the middle of the mountains) and because of an intangible spirit that has been created for and by the students in a small, mountainous and nurturing environment.
At some level, everyone who is part of that school feels privileged to be at this special place that is affectionately known as the “Little School in the Mountains.”
These students have the opportunity to learn both in the classroom and outside, by the river and in the mountains.
Although it is true that the students will be able to go outside if they are relocated to the old Battle Mountain High School site, it would hardly be a comparable experience with the highway sounds and the physical barrier that I-70 creates.
The school district has estimated that it will cost $19 million to update the old Battle Mountain High School so that it will meet the standards and needs of a K-8 school.
This would be partially paid for from remaining bond funds, which could be in the range of $4 million to $8 million.
The district has stated that the rest of the funds could come from selling off certain land parcels owned by the district or additional borrowings.
Are there other community members who agree that it seems irresponsible, in this economic environment, to spend that much money to replace two existing schools?
If the district decides to fund these costs by selling land in this economy, assuming they would be lucky enough to find a buyer, they would have to accept a very low price, which does not seem to be in the best interests of the taxpayers.
It seems equally inappropriate to borrow more funds right now. Assuming they need to borrow $12 million to complete the renovation, the interest costs could range from $500,000 to $700,000 per year.
Part of the rationale for closing Minturn Middle School and Meadow Mountain Elementary School is that the district has estimated that it can save approximately $700,000 in operating costs annually by combining the schools. However, this analysis is short on details and does not include the effect of any additional interest costs that could be incurred as a result of borrowing funds. Therefore, moving Minturn Middle School may not result in any bottom-line savings at all.
The school district has stated that there are certain physical aspects of Minturn Middle School and particularly of Meadow Mountain Elementary School that need to be updated or repaired. This can be done out of existing funds and can be done over time.
Why spend $19 million and move Minturn Middle School students to a location adjacent to I-70 and call that “an improvement in education”?
Parents, taxpayers and voters: Do you prefer, as I do, keeping our two small, community schools that physically separate elementary- and middle school-aged students?
We need to contact our elected board members and Sandra Smyser, the superintendent of the school district. She can be reached at sandra.smyser
I believe that the school district and the board have erroneously misinterpreted the lack of feedback from the community as an approval of their decision. It is never too late to let them know what we think!
Beth Plzak Vail