Grand Lake returns to 5-day school week
March 19, 2010
East Grand School Board members officially adopted the 2010-2011 calendar for Grand Lake Elementary School.
For the first time since 1982, a district school other than the charter school will have a five-day school week next year.
Veteran Grand Lake teacher Jan Gamez, joined by a few other teachers, voiced concerns on Tuesday about the district’s direction for the school.
Part of the present plan for Grand Lake is to reduce the hours of two Grand Lake Elementary School teachers and one paraprofessional. With the school’s current low enrollment, grade levels would be combined to create classes of about 22 students each.
Grand Lake Art Teacher Darrell Woods challenged the logic of combining classes, saying parents from outside of the Grand Lake area may be less likely to send their children to the Grand Lake school while other schools in the district maintain traditional classrooms with a few more students.
For that reason, the plan may defeat its own purpose, he said.
East Grand School District Superintendent Nancy Karas responded that the combined classroom model will only endure as long as enrollment doesn’t improve at Grand Lake.
If more children enroll in Grand Lake, the district will be able to add teacher hours and revert to one grade per classroom.
It is the hope of district officials that the attraction of a five-day school week might appeal to some parents outside of Grand Lake, helping to “stabilize” district resources.
The school offers experiential learning programs, and students have the attention of all teachers in the school every day because of its small size, Karas said.
“It might be 22 students to a room, but (the Grand Lake school) offers more than class size,” she said. “It still has that one-room schoolhouse feel to it.”
Gamez probed school officials for a “magic number” of students needed to stabilize Grand Lake.
The superintendent responded that the variables are too numerous: “There is no real magic number,” she said.
The Grand Lake school’s viability, she explained, not only relies on enrollment at its school, but enrollment at other schools in the district. Since the district depends on $7,100 of state funding for each student enrolled by Oct. 1, if the expected number of students does not enroll at any of the district schools, “all bets are off” for keeping Grand Lake open, Karas said.
Closing down Grand Lake Elementary would save the district an estimated $400,000 a year.
The district plans to budget for 10 less students enrolled in the district during the 2010-11 school year.
The district pays about $690,000 a year total to operate the Grand Lake school, which at full capacity would have 150 students.
Since enrollment at Grand Lake is down to 69 students, the district is paying about $3,000 to $4,000 more per student at that school compared to other schools in the district.
Operating the Grand Lake Elementary School on a five-day school week is an estimated $19,000 district commitment in added classified staff hours, utilities and one added bus route that would accommodate children from anywhere in the district. School bus boarding hours would remain the same as they are now.
Yet, from 2010-11 school year cuts coming to schools across the district, Grand Lake’s operating costs are poised to be reduced by as much as $100,000, according to Karas.
That means even with the current low enrollment at Grand Lake Elementary School, next year’s five-day school week with budget cuts reflects a savings to the district of at least $80,000. And, that savings could become greater if more students choose to enroll there, Karas said.
The decision to transition the school to five days a week was an administrative decision made with a nod from board members.
Board members sealed the decision on Tuesday by adopting the school’s five-day-a-week calendar, which will run from Aug. 25, 2010 to May 27, 2011.
“My goal is to try to save a community school that is valued by a community, which has spoken out clearly that it wants its community school,” Karas said.
– Tonya Bina can be reached at 970-887-3334 ext. 19603 or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org.