Vail Valley Voices: School board members: We made well-thought-out decision |

Vail Valley Voices: School board members: We made well-thought-out decision

Jeanne McQueeney and Carrie Benway
Vail, CO, Colorado

At the Jan. 11 meeting, the Eagle County Board of Education decided to support keeping all of the elementary schools in the district open at this time.

This decision was made after reviewing the financial impact to the district and weighing that against the pros and cons to the students, staff, parents and community members.

There was a great deal of public input regarding the closing of schools, as we anticipated, but it was not the deciding factor in keeping the schools open.

When a building is closed, we do not lose the staff as they are simply reallocated to the schools where students attend. What we do lose is the culture of a building that a team of teachers and administrators have collectively created, as well as time and momentum, which both impact student achievement.

Red Sandstone Elementary and Avon Elementary are both being recognized at the state level for academic excellence, and we want to keep this success going.

The cost savings of closing any given elementary school is around $500,000, reflected primarily in utilities, small school allocation, upkeep of the building and maybe one or two staff members.

The board would like the community to understand that when children are moved from one school into another, a majority of the staff will transfer to the new location in order to accommodate the influx of students.

The principal at the receiving school will get the staff that comes with the increased number of students so there would be minimal staff savings in the one or two positions, but not enough to justify closing a school.

If the $500,000 from closing a school was put back into the district’s operational budget, it would only result in a 0.4 staff allocation for each school in the district.

In addition, closing a school would have resulted in boundary changes for all of the upvalley schools, which disrupts the focus on achievement for all students.

As a result of the board deciding to keep schools open, there will most certainly have to be cuts made in other areas of the district.

In addition to hearing the community’s concerns, the board has listened to the thoughts and opinions of the Eagle County Education Association, Budget Committee, Employee Benefits Trust Committee and many other key groups to try and look at other areas where cuts could be made while keeping as many jobs as possible intact.

The board is working diligently to maintain small class sizes (especially for the lower elementary school grades), retain high-quality teachers and keep cuts away from kids as much as possible.

Recent media coverage of our school district has had an unavoidable negative tone because of the impact of the unprecedented state budget cuts.

Please be assured that in our schools, our focus is on student achievement every day. Our district is fortunate to have highly qualified administrators, teachers and staff who are dedicated to the success of the students in their schools. The board is dedicated to doing what’s best for kids, and the communities in which they live.

Jeanne McQueeney is the president and Carrie Benway is the vice president of the Eagle County Board of Education.

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