East Elementary School in Craig to become preschool, administration building to close
CRAIG — In what was characterized by Moffat County School District Superintendent Dave Ulrich as “a pivotal decision,” the Moffat County Board of Education has unanimously authorized administration supports and Early Childhood Center to relocate to East Elementary School, marking the end of an era of service to students for the Yampa Building at 775 Yampa Ave.
“I’m going to vote for it, not because I like it. I hate to move administration out of this building. I hate to close this building, but that is the sentiment. It’s not the best solution for the children. We have to educate our preschool children and it makes more sense economically,” said Board Chair JoAnn Baxter.
About a year ago — in April 2017 — the board of education began making a series of decisions aimed at closing an elementary school to address declining enrollment and recover an estimated $700,000 in costs, primarily through the reduction in salaries and benefits.
“The start of this conversation was about capturing operational costs. The vast majority is through staff savings,” Ulrich said.
The idea of disposing of the school administration building in favor of keeping all the existing elementary schools in service arose from public comments solicited by school closure consultants — The Blythe Group.
“Initially, this building (the Yampa Building), was not part of the closure, but the community brought it up, and the administrative building emerged as having the greatest likelihood of selling or repurposing. It also would cost the least amount to put in stasis,” Ulrich said.
The 2018-19 demand for preschool services, combined with fewer elementary schools, was projected to leave the district five preschool classrooms short.
Before making the decision to use East Elementary School for preschool, the district surveyed a little more than 120 parents of preschool students.
About 80 returned the survey, and of those, only eight said preschool at East would negatively impact their children.
“Three folks mentioned that transportation would be difficult. Two felt it would be a burden and one respondent felt that they did not think they would be able to access the program …” Ulrich said.
Some renovation will be needed at Sunset and Sandrock elementary schools to accommodate the influx of students displaced from East. About $60,000 will be required to reconfigure East Elementary School to accommodate preschool students and district administrators.
“Who knows how much we would have to spend to get this building (the Yampa Building) up to compliance. It saves us a great deal of money, as we have a location ready,” said board member Jobeth Tupa.
East is expected to be ready for preschool by the beginning of the new academic year, while administrative staff and services are expected to complete their move by end of the holiday break.
“Our highest priority is to get spaces ready to accept our kids,” Ulrich said.
Several options are under consideration for disposal of the Yampa Building.
“The board has requested that I prioritize working with the county, working with the city to keep that building in the public domain, in public hands, somehow, some way,” Ulrich told Moffat County commissioners on Tuesday.
After Ulrich’s presentation, Commissioner Don Cook recalled his own experience.
“I went to kindergarten in that building. It was old when I went to school. I knew it was old. I’m old now,” he said.
The building, completed in 1925, and, according to documents in the archive at the Museum of Northwest Colorado, is old enough to qualify for historic designation.
During a work session prior to the school board’s meeting, Moffat County resident Adam Cozzens spoke about his efforts to do just that.
“It is part of the fabric of Craig and Northwest Colorado,” he said.
Historic designation wouldn’t prevent the sale or renovation of the property and might even make it more enticing.
“I think there’s a lot of opportunities to keep that very beautiful building in public hands,” Ulrich said.
Contact Sasha Nelson at 970-875-1794 or snelson@CraigDailyPress.com.