Home > News Articles > School Closure likely in LP District by Carol McGraw 12-15-09

School Closure likely in LP District by Carol McGraw 12-15-09

April 21, 2010

School closure likely in Lewis-Palmer district

December 15, 2009 6:36 PM
CAROL MCGRAW

THE GAZETTE

The Lewis-Palmer School District 38  board likely will vote Thursday to reconfigure some area schools and grade levels, including closing Grace Best Elementary School in downtown Monument, to save around $800,000.
The board must cut $3 million from its $39 million budget, which has been hammered by enrollment decreases and state funding cuts.
Board members asked administrators dozens of questions as they grappled with four options during a five-hour work session that began at 7 a.m.  Tuesday. All said they were not happy with the situation, but changes must be made — and now, rather than later.
“We have to minimizes the impact on the least number of kids,” said board member Mark Pfoff.
Board member Jeff Ferguson added, “It’s a matter of how many times do we want to  come back with a razor blade.”
Grace Best was targeted for closure because it needs more than $3 million in improvements, including asbestos abatement.
Under Option B (see options below) a second elementary school — not yet identified — would be closed. The board discussed using reserves to avoid a second closure but felt that wasn’t wise.
The district, with 5,500 students, expects a enrollment drop of 140 next year and more later. The district recently opened a new high school. But the problem is a dearth of elementary students because in the district’s affluent areas,  parents tend to be older and have older children.
School board president John Mann noted that parents want their children to stay together in their traditional school groupings if moved, not be dispersed around the district.
Option D would change Palmer Lake Elementary School  boundaries so that 40 percent of the students would receive free or reduced-price lunch.  No board members seemed too hot on that option.
The board and administrators also worried that if they wait until January to vote on changes they could lose students to other districts that are in the midst of open enrollment.
The district had two recent community meetings and board members said they have received hundreds of emails from anxious, angry and sad parents. Most are resigned to changes, but hope it would not affect their own children.
One principal, Aileen  Finnegan of Prairie Winds Elementary School, summed up the feeling of many administrators at the meeting, saying the board should move quickly, not only for staffing, remodeling buildings and curriculum planning reasons, but also for emotional reasons.
“It will let everyone move forward,” Finnegan said.
Here are the options as they stood as of Tuesday:

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