School board to consider closing Fraser, Grand Lake elementary schools to balance budget and preserve education programs |

School board to consider closing Fraser, Grand Lake elementary schools to balance budget and preserve education programs

Tonya Bina
Sky-Hi News
Grand County, CO Colorado

State budget cuts and dwindling federal bailout money funneled through the state is forcing the East Grand School District to consider drastic measures to preserve its reserve and balance its budget for the 2011-2012 school year and beyond.

The closures of both Fraser Elementary and Grand Lake Elementary schools may become a top consideration.

This possibility is included in a leading recommendation on ways to make $1.16 million in cuts to the 2011-2012 East Grand School District budget.

Out of seven possible scenarios about ways to make cuts with the least impact on student education, members of a District Accountability Committee have ranked first a scenario of consolidating the schools to Granby – with preschool through third grade at the Granby Elementary school, grades fourth through seventh at the East Grand Middle School, and eighth through 12th at Middle Park High School.

Doing so would maintain class sizes of 20-23 students, according to a District Accountability outline that is planned to be presented to school board members a the Tuesday, Jan. 18, East Grand School Board meeting.

It will be the first time the Budget and Programs Committee of the District Accountability Committee will present its recommendations to the school board.

The outline also states the closure scenario would preserve all special programs and electives for all grades in all schools; other scenarios would entail cuts to programs such as languages, arts, music and all other programs and electives.

The option would also provide for a staff benefit package and would preserve the district’s reserve, but could still mean a reduction to athletics and activities funding, loss of up to five staff members and 10 support staff members, loss of 2.5 administrative positions and elimination of three district level director positions, according to the committee’s outline.

The District Accountability Committee has been analyzing ways to cut the district budget since September.

“If we don’t close the schools, the entire (discretionary education) budget would be cut,” said Karen Waeschle of the DAC’s Budget and Programs Committee. The committee is made up of staff members, parents and community members from Grand Lake to Winter Park. Waeschle has three children who attend district schools.

The committee was unanimous in ranking the consolidation option as the committee’s top recommendation.

“Everyone knows this is dramatic,” Waeschle said, adding that the committee has studied all options thoroughly and did not arrive at its findings “out of thin air.”

“We approached the whole thing with how to improve the quality of education in Grand County, not just to make cuts to save money,” she said.

“It’s the only plan that does that and saves as many jobs as possible. Yes, it’s an emotional loss. But we’re not the only district in Colorado that’s having to consolidate.”

According to the committee’s findings, she said, in comparison with other districts, the East Grand School District is spending far too much on facilities in ratio to its number of students.

“We’re paying more on facilities, less on education,” she said.

Waeschle stressed the district’s financial hardships stem from “a state problem, not a district one.”

– Visit next week for more details about proposed consolidation and cuts in East Grand schools

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