South Routt School District staff working to address declining enrollment
Oak Creek — South Routt School District Superintendent Darci Mohr is hoping to invest more energy toward visionary thinking this year in hopes of slowing or reversing dramatically declining enrollment in the district.
Mohr reported to board members Tuesday that district enrollment is down to 334 students — down from 391 students early last school year and lower than current year projections that included some declining enrollment.
“We need to make drastic change quickly,” Mohr said. “We can’t afford to wait.”
Declining enrollment this year could mean the district receives about $100,000 less than it initially budgeted. The district has implemented a hiring freeze in the meantime.
Official enrollment counts that determine funding take place Oct. 1.
Among the strategies Mohr presented to the school board were ideas to improve the reputation of the small, rural district and find ways to keep students from enrolling in the Steamboat Springs School District instead.
The strategies include:
Improving academic performance
Mohr said the most important thing the district needs to do is strengthen academic programming, which will increase student performance.
“We can be competitive,” Mohr said. “We need to attract them back, and one of the ways we do that is we offer a top notch program. Period. End of story.”
Strengthening niche programming
The district needs to strengthen its existing niche program of agriculture, a proposition that includes adding more technical and career prep courses, Mohr said. The district’s agriculture department is already working on a certification program that would provide students with college-level coursework and an agriculture certification.
“That will expand our niche program, which is already a very strong program,” Mohr said.
The district’s opened Soroco Preschool at Yampa this summer with one classroom and the potential to expand into a second, existing classroom space as early as November, dependent upon the availability of qualified teachers.
Mohr said continuing to expand preschool offerings will be key, as Routt County is poised to have a boom in early childhood population in the coming years.
Reinforcing community partnerships, including in Stagecoach
Mohr has a long list of potential community partnerships the district could pursue, including some that center around a nine-acre property in Stagecoach which was gifted to the district. One idea involves creating a community center on the property with a preschool within it, a move Mohr thinks would help encourage Stagecoach families to enroll in their home district of South Routt, rather than applying for a transfer to attend school in Steamboat Springs.
The district and several South Routt- and Steamboat-area partnering organizations have applied for a GoCo grant, which could support development of the Stagecoach property.
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Engineering work to further assess needed upgrades at wastewater treatment plants in Milner and Phippsburg will cost at least $125,000, though where the money will come from hasn’t been decided yet.