Vail Valley Voices: Combining schools will save money and improve program |

Vail Valley Voices: Combining schools will save money and improve program

Sandra B. Smyser
Vail, CO, Colorado

The Eagle County Board of Education decided March 10 to combine Meadow Mountain Elementary School and Minturn Middle School into a pre-kindergarten-through-eighth-grade configuration at the old Battle Mountain High School with the intent to move both schools into the site in the fall of 2011, pending the availability of funds for building.

Additionally, the board will be working with the Minturn community and other stakeholders in a timely manner to repurpose the Minturn Middle School site.

The board has had extensive conversations during its past several work sessions and visited with town councils and boards, parents and staff members in the Minturn and Eagle-Vail areas as these communities would potentially be affected by the decision.

It is important to point out that these discussions began with the prior two school boards and with the passage of the $128 million bond in November 2006. The board felt it was time to move forward with a decision in order not to keep schools and communities in limbo any longer.

The notion of a pre-K-8 expeditionary-learning school has generated a lot of excitement in the community as this creates a unique opportunity for the Eagle County School District to provide yet another outstanding program option on the east end of the district.

We plan to take interested teams of parents, students, staff and community members to other pre-K-8 sites in the state to see how they operate and model our program after those schools that have been extremely successful.

With budget cuts looming, there appears to be some confusion around capital versus operational funding, and I would like

to take the opportunity to provide some clarification.

By law, capital funding can only be used for one-time capital expenses (construction projects, remodeling, etc.) and cannot be used for continuous operational expenses (salaries, benefits, etc.).

Revenue shortfalls from the state are causing us to cut from the operational fund.

At the same time, we are using the remaining bond dollars to remodel the old Battle Mountain High School in Eagle-Vail as we cannot use them to support operational expenses such as salaries.

The savings that will result by combining these two schools are in the operational budget and can then be used to avoid additional cuts in the future.

We realize that many buildings and communities will be affected by the board’s recent decision. We remain committed to working closely with the town of Minturn as we make plans for the best possible future use of the land and the building in Maloit Park.

In addition, the Meadow Mountain Elementary School, Minturn Middle School and Red Sandstone Elementary School communities will be intimately involved in the planning process of the pre-K-8 expeditionary-learning program at the old high school.

While Meadow Mountain and Minturn Middle will be the main schools situated there, Red Sandstone families will be integrating into the newly remodeled school after fifth grade, and we will work diligently to ensure that transition is as smooth as possible for everyone.

The planning process for making these changes will be collaborative and cooperative. We fully expect and welcome the community’s participation in this exciting journey ahead.

Sandra B. Smyser is the superintendent of the Eagle County School District.

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