David Ulrich: Now is the time to invest in education and secure our community’s future
In Moffat County School District (MCSD), we are focused on living our mission to educate and inspire students to succeed in an environment of change. This mission uniquely fits our community and has never been more relevant than it is today.
As our community continues to process the recent news that Tri-State Generation has announced the planned closures, there is uncertainty about the future, and that can be scary. As cliché as it is, my mind goes to the saying, “when one door closes, another one opens.”
In MCSD, we are thinking about how our schools can open doors by being a key factor in contributing to a successful transition for Craig and the Moffat County community.
Over the past three years, we have received grants that have allowed us to invest $2 million in early literacy, safety and security, and a new roof at Sunset Elementary. Despite the fact that the state has withheld $19.8 million from our district since 2009 in an effort to balance the state budget (an effect of budget stabilization efforts), our district has continued to invest in opportunities for students. Those investments include adopting new evidence-based reading resources, implementing Project Lead the Way (a nationally recognized approach to engaging students in science, technology, engineering, and math), and re-energizing our high school’s Vo-Ag program with a state-of-the-art ventilation system and new equipment.
These programs are making a difference. Our students have performed at the Accredited level on the Colorado Department of Education’s District Performance Framework for three consecutive years! That’s a turnaround from the previous seven years, and something we need to capitalize on now. In order to continue on this positive path and provide exceptional schools for our students, we need additional investment.
This November, we will come to the Moffat County community and ask voters to consider funding a bond that will allow us to ensure our buildings are ready to serve another generation of students. While we have invested more than $2.6 million in capital improvements over the past four years, it isn’t enough, and our current budget constraints will not allow us to keep up with the ongoing needs of our schools.
If approved, a 2020 voter-funded bond — the first in 12 years — will fund infrastructure improvements including safety and security upgrades, more new roofs, and a refresh of the interior environment of every building. In the coming months, we look forward to getting your input on our plans to address our schools’ needs.
Navigating an environment of change isn’t always easy. The fiscal choices we have had to face, such as consolidating from four elementary schools to three, were difficult but necessary. We recognize that our community is also in the midst of big changes and may be tempted to take a wait-and-see approach. However, we believe now is the time to push forward, invest in education as an economic driver, and help secure our community’s future.
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Just like you, I live with the fear of wildfire. My southern Oregon town of Ashland nestles against the foothills of the Siskiyou Mountains, whose forests become tinder in our hot, dry summers.