Voters say ‘yes’ to $1 million boost for East Grand teachers, staff
Teachers and staff from the East Grand School District have stepped up in their response to the pandemic and last month’s devastating wildfire — and voters seem to have noticed.
East Grand’s ballot issue 4A asked voters to raise taxes by $1 million to provide funds to attract and retain quality teachers and staff through a mill levy override. As of Wednesday morning, 60.7% of 5,990 East Grand voters have said yes.
Superintendent Frank Reeves was enthusiastic for the large victory, though that celebration was tempered by the grief of the last few weeks.
“While things have been tough on everybody, including teachers, they deserve this,” Reeves said. “They deserve to get rewarded for everything they’ve done. By far, this is the toughest year.”
The COVID-19 pandemic had already been a year of trials for local teachers, who have faced unprecedented disruption when schools shut down in March and must now navigate a myriad of health orders to provide in-person instruction.
Last week, the district shut down due to the extensive displacement of students and staff as the East Troublesome Fire burned just a few miles away from three of East Grand’s four schools.
While classes resumed this week, a number of East Grand community members have lost their homes. Those tribulations are not limited to teachers and staff, but Reeves was still grateful for the recognition.
“No one signed up for this obviously,” he said. “To be able to step up and do what they’re doing makes this a bit sweeter and more rewarding. I’m glad our community recognized this too.”
Reeves said he was most proud of the teachers and students stepping up to volunteer in wake of the fire, including some who were evacuated themselves. Both elementary schools also served as temporary donation centers for fire victims.
With East Grand facing a potentially tight budget for the 2021-22 school year, the $1 million boost will mean a lot. Reeves said the additional revenue would help retain teachers or help fund adequate raises depending on finances.
Increasing teacher pay to a competitive level has long been a struggle for the district, which has the ninth highest cost of living out of any school district in the state, but a below average teacher salary. This is something Reeves also hopes the district will address.
“When times are good, we can start catching our staff up to where they should be salary wise,” Reeves said.
He added that the district would work with teachers to make the best decisions for the upcoming budgets.
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The Colorado Department of Transportation has closed Colorado Highway 125 in Grand County while crews work to clear the route of mud, debris and snagged trees piled up on various bridges and guardrails.