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El Paso County Colorado District 49

Boundary realignment

At the December 10 board meeting, Falcon District 49 Board of Education deferred action on overcrowding and boundary issues, postponing the decision until January or later.In a statement read at the meeting, board president Danielle Lindorf said the election of three new board members, changes in district administration and a $3.5 million budget shortfall require the board to take more time before making a decision.Lindorf said additional time will help to educate new board members, allow the board to create a plan in-line with their vision for the district, and better understand the community’s desires regarding growth and student achievement. The board will also investigate bonding or mill options for the 2010 or 2011 election years.At the heart of pressing boundary and overcrowding issue is Horizon Middle School – which is currently too small to feed enough students to Sand Creek High school and is currently operating over capacity.District administration presented several options to alleviate the problem at the Oct. 12 board meeting. The presentation included the controversial solution that would place middle school students in a wing of SCHS.Many parents objected to that plan citing concerns about the safety of younger children in close proximity to high school students.Bridgette Jordan, a parent of a sixth-grader, spoke at the October meeting during the open forum. “My son would be walking to school with high school students. You can’t protect them all of the time,” she said.”High school kids are great kids,” Mary Lougee, co-president of FTEA and teacher at SCHS, said. She said she is less worried about the overt safety concerns as she is with protecting the fragile self-image of middle school students.She said negative comments by older students about younger students could be overheard and be very damaging. “Let’s do things that are socially healthy. Placing sixth graders in the elementary schools is a known, viable solution,” Lougee said.Other parents are concerned that moving the boundaries is a short-term solution that would require multiple adjustments, potential requiring students to change schools more than once.Tammy Harold, speaking at the time as a parent and a candidate for the board, said the BOE should consider the emotional safety of the students and avoid bouncing them around.Alex Eichelberger called for the district to be proactive instead of reactive. “Let’s make one sweep and move them once,” she said.No action towards a final decision has been taken since October – a work session to inform the board on the issue on Oct. 28 was canceled due to weather and the November elections caused further delays.BOE Vice President, Andy Holloman, said the long term solution should be to increase the capacity at HMS. To properly feed SCHS it should seat 900 students. HMS capacity is 575 students with over 600 currently enrolled, Holloman said.With budget shortfalls, the question remains what the district will do until it can build an addition.Hollomon said feedback from the community has been very helpful. “It got the community engaged and the good thing is we learned that this option (placing middle school students in the wing of Sand Creek) doesn’t work for our community,” he said.Holloman said the BOE will continue to work on options that are within the district’s means. “We want to give the community what it wants. The number one legacy of prior boards was they were fiscally conservative. This district is financially sound and because of that we have options – many districts right now don’t have options,” he said. “We will stay conservative and be responsible.”

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