Five of six Moffat County School Board members voted Monday to shut down Dinosaur Elementary School after hearing the pros and cons of keeping the facility open.
Unless Dinosaur Mayor Richard Blakley is successful in his quest to make Dinosaur a charter school next year, all Dinosaur children will load a bus every morning and go to school in Rangely next fall as a result of Monday's decision.
Board member Steve Hafey made the motion to close the school.
"What I'm looking at is it's what is best for the kids," Hafey said. "It might not be what's best for the community. But I'm considering what's best financially and educationally."
The rest of the board, with exception of John Wellman, agreed that the best decision for next year would be to close the school, which is only projected to have eight students.
Some of the pros of closing the school included:
- Consistency for students, who would begin and graduate from the same school system. Students currently attend Dinosaur Elementary School through the fifth grade, and then finish out their school careers at Rangely.
- An increase in special services, including special education, academic interventions, speech and counseling, which would be available on a daily basis. Right now a special education instructor visits Dinosaur Elementary School from Craig once a month at the most, school officials said.
- A more efficient use of taxpayer dollars, eliminating a large school operation for less than 10 students.
Since discussions began two months ago about the potential of closing Dinosaur Elementary School, several residents of Dinosaur have spoken out, saying the closing of the school could kill the community.
Several board members cited calls from Dinosaur residents wanting to keep the school open. But each board member did say they also had calls from residents in favor of closing the school.
One key factor discussed in the meeting was the fact that 20 children, who could attend Dinosaur Elementary School, already go to Rangely.
Hafey made reference to that in his decision to make a motion to close the school.
"I think Pete (Bergmann) has outlined the pros and cons fairly well," Hafey said. "I think the silent majority has spoken fairly loud because of where their kids are going."
But Wellman, the only board member who opposed closing the school, has repeatedly said that the district is taking power away from parents in Dinosaur.
"If they're in a different district from where they're kids are going to school they're not going to have consistent representation," he said.
Rangely School Superintendent Jim Day, who attended the meeting, said the district would prefer having the students from the time they start school through high school graduation, as compared to the students transferring to Rangely after the fifth grade.
"The sooner they are in the curriculum because of the flow and sequence of it, the better off they will be," he said.
The other option on the table Monday was to reduce the number of grades at the school from preschool through fifth grade to preschool through kindergarten.
But during the meeting, Blakley distributed a letter of intent to the school board signed by seven people informing the board of their intent to pursue a charter school in Dinosaur.
The letter states that the goal is to have a preschool through sixth grade school and, within two to three years, a preschool through eighth grade school.
Blakley said he and his group would pursue that option regardless of whether the board chose to close the school or reduce the number of grades.
After the meeting, Blakley said he had expected the board to make the decision it did.
"I'm disappointed but I'm not surprised," he said. "That's why I came with this letter."
He explained his desire to keep the school open.
"It's heritage," he said.
"I'm looking at a fifth generation that is going there."
Josh Nichols can be reached at 824-7031 or firstname.lastname@example.org.