Officials name elementary school to be closed in Craig in 2018
CRAIG — East Elementary School is out.
After months of deliberation, the Moffat County School District Board of Education met Thursday, Dec. 14 at the Moffat County Fairgrounds Pavilion to hear recommendations from the Blyth Group concerning the closure of one of Craig’s elementary schools, leading to a unanimous decision by the six-member board to close East Elementary by the fall 2018.
“It’s not a simple thing for any of us to do or for the community to accept,” said Chris Thome, school board member and father of two children who attend East.
East Elementary will close at the end of the 2017-18 school year. Students from the school will move either to Sandrock Elementary or Sunset Elementary at the beginning of the 2018-19 school year.
“I feel this is a step that the community has to take to make this an educational hub. I hope that this move is a move forward. It’s not just to close a building; it’s to improve education in this community,” Thome said.
The building was selected because it scored the lowest on a list of 19 criteria identified by the consultants and the public.
The Blyth Group data and presentation from Thursday’s board meeting will be available on the school district website Friday, Dec. 15, said Ulrich.
“I want people to know that this is part of a district decision, and it is about the facility,” said East Principal Sarah Hepworth. “I want the parents, staff and students to know that their hard work is honored and appreciated.”
The elementary school principals were notified about 90 minutes prior to the board of education meeting that East was the school recommended for closure.
“We are taking this step due to a significant reduction in student enrollment during the past 25 years,” Superintendent Dave Ulrich wrote in a letter to the community, published Dec. 14 on the school and Craig Press websites.
Ulrich will “now activate a multi-step communication plan that will include staff, parents of the affected schools and all parents of students in the district.”
Ridgeview Elementary School is not expected to be impacted. Sunset Elementary School can expect to receive about 75 students who would have otherwise been transported to East, and about 100 students from the pedestrian areas around East will relocate to Sandrock Elementary School, said Blyth Group demographer Shannon Bingham.
The parents of East students will be invited to a meeting at the school next week to review proposed attendance boundaries and have any questions answered.
“We still have a lot of work to do. Tomorrow, kids will walk in our doors and expect the same quality of education they had yesterday,” Hepworth said. “East staff will rally to make the other schools the best that they can be.”
A teacher redeployment team has been created to assist with the reallocation of staff, which will shrink only slightly from 46 to 41 across all elementary schools.
“The purpose of this team is to ensure a smooth transition of teachers to the remaining schools,” Ulrich said. “As I’ve previously communicated, we do not anticipate letting teachers go involuntarily from the district through this process.”
All four public elementary schools in Craig and the administration building were considered as candidates for closure.
The Blyth Group presented nine scenarios to the board in October during a regular public work session.
Three of the scenarios proposed closing East, and two closure scenarios each were presented for Sandrock, Sunset and Ridgeview elementary schools.
By closing East, fewer schools are impacted, only one bus has to be added to transport students, and the free and reduced population will be relatively even across the schools, Bingham said.
The initial pros and cons of each scenario were evaluated, and in November, the consultants worked with stakeholders to create a scoring system to rank each school based on the 19 criteria.
The school with the lowest ranking — East — was recommended for closure.
“This decision has not been taken lightly by the board of education,” Ulrich said.
Contact Sasha Nelson at 970-875-1794 or snelson@CraigDailyPress.com.