5 things to know about closure of an elementary school in Craig
- Why is the district making this decision? This step is being taken due to a significant reduction in student enrollment. Since 1991, district enrollment has fallen by more than 16 percent.
- Has a decision already been made? There has been no decision about which elementary building will close. During the process of making the determination, opportunities for stakeholders to hear about progress will be provided.
- Will class sizes be higher? Yes, class sizes will be higher, however, based on current enrollment and future projections, class sizes will remain within the board of education’s regulations.
- What will be done with the annual savings? Moffat County School District currently has several groups in place that will determine how best to utilize the operational savings.
- Will any elementary school teachers lose their jobs? The reduction in elementary school teaching positions is fewer than the typical amount of annual turnover for elementary teachers.
- Will the remaining three schools be traditional Pre-K through fifth grade? There are many ways the remaining buildings could be configured. This will be part of Blythe’s recommendations.
- What will happen to the closed elementary building? The district has already heard several ideas for how the building could be repurposed for use by others. There are many needs in the community that could be met by the vacated facility.
- When will the decision be announced? Barring unforeseen circumstances, the announcement will be made at the December board of education meeting.
CRAIG — Work continues to determine which of Craig’s elementary schools will be closed in 2018.
“No decision has been made,” said Superintendent of Schools Dave Ulrich. “No matter what building we close, you will have people who have given decades of their lives to that school. … I don’t want anyone thinking that we take this lightly. We will make this decision in December to allow time to honor the school and redeploy the teachers and to be respectful of everyone’s circumstances.”
Consultants with the Blythe Group are examining some 19 criteria and multiple closure scenarios to help the board of education determine which school to close.
Following are the top five things to know about the data.
• About 120 community members attended listening sessions in September to hear a presentation by the consultants. Community members completed a short survey following each presentation.
As a result of survey feedback, the consultants have increased the number of closure scenarios. In addition to modeling the closure of each of the four Craig elementary schools, they will also consider the impact of closing the Early Education Center and School Administration Building — the oldest building in the district.
That scenario would see the consolidation of all early education classes and their relocation — along with school district administration — to the vacated elementary school. Then, the Administration Building would be closed. Further analysis of this option will help determine its feasibility and the operational cost savings.
• Enrollment in Moffat County’s public schools has dropped in recent years, following a drop in population.
“Over 20 years, we’ve lost about 600 students,” said Shannon Bingham, demographer for The Blythe Group. “After 2008, we lost about 700 members of our workforce. People just left the community.”
The state demographer’s office expects Moffat County’s population to remain stable at just over 13,000 until at least 2050.
And, with fewer babies being born now than in the past, Bingham concluded, “We need to be realistic about how our facilities are configured.”
Data was not available to show how many students have opted for other educational providers, such as homeschool and GOAL Academy.
But Bingham noted that more than 50 students are traveling from Moffat County to attend school in Hayden.
“That represents almost half a million dollars in state funding,” Bingham said. He explained that, if the district were to reengage those students, it wouldn’t increase enrollment enough to justify keeping all the schools open.
• Marketability is one of the criteria being analyzed.
According to The Blythe Group consultants, the School Administration building is the most marketable, followed by Ridgeview Elementary School. Both buildings could easily be divided into residential housing or office space by developers.
Sunset Elementary School is considered more marketable than East Elementary School, with Sandrock Elementary School considered the least marketable, due to its larger size and location adjacent to the middle school.
A school’s marketability does not guarantee its sale. The school board has asked The Blythe Group to determine the cost of “mothballing” the closed school.
• Operating and maintenance costs are also among the criteria being considered.
Based on data collected by The Blythe Group, the Administration Building has the highest utility costs, at $1.33 per square foot, followed by Sunset at $1.18 and Ridgeview at $1.08 per square foot. East costs $0.94 per square foot to run, and Sandrock was the most efficient, with a utility cost of $0.66 per square foot.
Sandrock was also the cheapest school to maintain, followed by the Administration Building, then Sunset and Ridgeview. East has the highest cost of maintenance per square foot.
• School utilization — how much room is used within each school — is another criteria under review. Once a school is closed, the remaining three must have enough room to accommodate the intake, with or without a reconfiguration of grades.
The Blyth Group found that Sandrock currently has the most space available, with 23 classrooms and a utilization score of 0.65. Ridgeview is the smallest school and is almost at capacity, with 18 classrooms and a utilization score of 0.92. Sunset and East both have 19 classrooms. Of the two, East has slightly more space available, with a utilization score of 0.74, compared to 0.79 scored by Sunset.
A utilization score had not yet been assigned to the Administration Building.
The slides from the presentation by The Blythe Group are available at moffatsd.org by clicking “The Blythe Presentation Slides” on the “School Closure” tile.
Another presentation from The Blythe Group is expected at the board’s next work session, set for 4 p.m. on Oct. 26 in the boardroom of the Administration Building, 775 Yampa Ave.
Contact Sasha Nelson at 970-875-1794 or snelson@CraigDailyPress.com.