Vail Daily letter: Save Red Sandstone |

Vail Daily letter: Save Red Sandstone

Kelly Pope
Vail, CO, Colorado

Save Red Sandstone

I would like to preface this letter by providing a little history. I am the parent of a second- and a fourth-grader at Red Sandstone Elementary. I live in Eagle-Vail, but things were very unstable at Meadow Mountain the year my son began kindergarten and I was fortunate enough to receive a variance to Red Sandstone.

In all honesty, I felt like I had won the lottery. I had a back-up plan if Red Sandstone failed to find space for my son, but I wasn’t thrilled with the prospects. I was so grateful to Red Sandstone for granting me a variance that I have always gone above and beyond to give back to the school. As a result, I am the current PTA president of Red Sandstone. I have been so happy at Red Sandstone that I have become a huge supporter of the entire Eagle County School District.

With the failure of 3B, I realized that everything would be on the table for elimination. I wasn’t particularly shocked that Red Sandstone was part of the equation. I heard the public outcries for decisive action, and I think Red Sandstone is an easy target.

At this point, however, and after the Dec. 14 Eagle County Board of Education meeting, I am becoming increasingly frustrated with the continued focus on Red Sandstone.

I’ve been going to the board meetings where everyone has a cause – sports, art, music, individual schools or class size. I understand that something has to go, and that is the sad reality. My frustration lies is the fact that I cannot, for the life of me, see the benefit to the school district of closing Red Sandstone. As a matter of fact, I see it as a huge mistake.

The reality is that Red Sandstone is among the highest-achieving schools in the district and performs in the top 13 percent of schools in the state. It is supported by the town of Vail and resides on town-owned property that is essentially donated to the district.

There was a time when its population was decreasing, but that time has passed. Enrollment is growing at Red Sandstone, and it will continue to grow. We currently have 15 variance applications for kindergarten for the next school year and eight requests for first through fifth, even in the wake of the discussion of its closure. We receive multiple calls a week from parents interested in sending their children to Red Sandstone.

We are a school of choice, and we are in demand, but I don’t want anyone to be fooled by what they have heard. It has been repeatedly said that we have 100 kids at Red Sandstone that attend on a variance. This could not be further from the truth because this year, out of the 260 students at the school, there are only 13 children on variances and 29 children on transfers.

In addition, the town of Vail provides the land for Red Sandstone. If the district closes our school, it will never have the option of having a school in Vail again.

This seems so incredibly shortsighted. I do not have a crystal ball, nor does the district, but it seems impossible to predict the future to the point that it would be worth taking such a huge risk. If patterns shift, as they have in cities all over the country, the Eagle County School District would be left without an option for a school in the upper valley.

Likewise, the town wants a school and it is possible, if not likely, that a charter school will move into the space. This would result in a huge loss to the district. This alone seems reason enough to take Red Sandstone off the table.

The district has an estimated yearly attrition rate of 40 percent for teachers, while Red Sandstone has virtually none. Our staff performs highly, is incredibly dedicated and achieves results.

The school also has a reputation for its excellent reading program. There are many success stories of Red Sandstone students who have entered the school below grade level in reading and, within just one year’s time, have improved their reading to be above grade level.

Finally, it seems that Red Sandstone is viewed as a wealthy upvalley school that is undeserving of any sympathy and consideration. This could not be further from the truth.

It is true that a portion of our population has the means to make choices about their education. This group probably constitutes about 30 percent of the students. It is true that this group, probably 80 or so students, will look elsewhere if Red Sandstone is closed. This would result in a loss to the district of about $496,000, substantially more than the district would save by closing Red Sandstone.

The other 70 percent of students are families that are struggling. Their parents work in Vail or are seeking employment. They’ve lived in Minturn, Red Cliff or Vail for years, and they are just getting by. They have children with special needs that are being met by our school, and they cannot imagine starting over.

In closing, please consider taking Red Sandstone off the agenda at the next meeting so that we can move forward and do what we do best – to educate and to nurture our children.

The lack of certainty for all of these schools is toxic to each individual school, their communities and the entire district. I say, please “stop the bleeding” and ensure our future. It is a bright one if we are allowed to continue.

Kelly Pope

President of the PTA at Red Sandstone Elementary School

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