Scott Wedel: Facts argue against need for new school
I am disappointed to read the letter to the editor from School Board President Joey Andrew and Superintendent Brad Meeks inaccurately claiming that a new school is “absolutely necessary.” It shows the extent they have strayed from fact-based decision making.
My May 17 letter to the editor listed 11 facts, none of which support building a new school at this time. None of those facts have been disputed.
Mr. Andrew and Superintendent Meeks do a clever job of avoiding those facts in their letter. Their letter explains why certain projects such as middle school cafeteria expansion or a new pod at the high school are needed, but not why a new school is needed.
The most salient fact from my previous letter is that enrollment for kindergarten to fifth grade peaked in 2015, has declined and, according to the school’s district’s own future budgets, is expected to continue to decline. That is no surprise because births to parents living within the district for 2004 to 2010 averaged 158 per year while it has averaged 136 since then.
That is a difference of needing one less classroom per grade. Only the first two years of this local baby bust have reached school age so far, but both years have resulted in fewer students enrolling in kindergarten as one would expect.
The district did not get a demographics analysis until after deciding a new school was required. The RFP referenced documents stating that the district had decided a new school was required. Their demographics report does not use transparent methodology and has inexplicable kindergarten projections such as one year with a kindergarten of 176 students from a birth cohort of 114.
As a point of reference, fall 2018 had 138 students from a birth cohort of 135. If their report is corrected to project kindergarten as being 8% larger than the known birth cohorts while retaining their growth values for first through fifth grades then K-5 enrollment is projected to decline by 172 students over the next five years.
The importance of the out-of-district enrollment is that, according to the state’s open enrollment law, a school district does not need to accept out-of-district students into a program, grade or school that is full. In fall 2018, it makes sense that Yampa Valley High School had room for an out-of-district student, but it is surprising that the supposedly overcrowded elementary schools had room for 50 out-of-district students.
The need for a new school should be based upon facts. The facts argue against a need for a new school at this time and the next five years.
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