Patron suggests forming taxing district in order to keep all 3 schools open

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District would lease buildings to board
RANGELY — While the closing of Parkview Elementary is still a possibility, school board members are soliciting public input before making a decision about the future of the building.
One community member approached the school board last week with an idea for keeping the school open.
“We had a suggestion from a community member as to how we might go about looking for creative ways to keep all three buildings open,” said Superintendent Dwayne Newman.
At a Feb. 9 meeting, Rodger Polley suggested the board look into establishing a separate taxing district, which would own the school buildings and lease them back to the district.
“He suggested that we look at the possibility of forming a special district, similar to a fire district or a cemetery district,” Newman said. “And then the school district could turn over facilities to that special district, and then lease them back. The special district would use (tax) revenues they would collect to maintain and operate the buildings.”
Newman said the idea will have to be studied, but he appreciated the suggestion.
“We turned the idea over to our legal counsel,” Newman said. “He is now digging to see if that is even an option. But at least we’re trying to think outside the box.”
The board is considering closing Parkview — the oldest building in the district, built in 1978 — to save money.
“Our capacity right now (in the district) is 1,140 students,” Newman said. “And we’ve got 528 students, so we’re about 46 percent of capacity. You think in terms of … half of your heating costs are going to heat empty space. You have to heat the space whether it’s occupied by one student or 21. Parkview is our most expensive space to keep up, per square foot, because of its age.”
Newman said meetings would be scheduled to seek public input about the possibility of closing Parkview.
“Apparently, when the EEC (Early Education Center) was closed, the board set a precedence that every March it would take a look, because it’s budget time, to see if we need to do anything different in facilities and facilities use,” said first-year Superintendent Newman.
Renovation work at Park-view, which was approved as part of the $15 million bond passed by voters in November, will be put on hold, because of uncertainty about whether the building will remain open.
“Whatever is decided (about the future of the building), the renovation for the elementary school won’t occur this year,” Newman said. “It’s just such a tight timeline. If a decision would be made to close the school, (the renovation) wouldn’t be an issue. We have three years to spend the bond money. So I think it’s better to look at it now and think about the efficiency there.”
Newman said the renovation projects at the middle school and high school are on schedule.
“The work there should be completed before school opens,” Newman said. “The majority of the scope of work is going to move forward. A couple of things have been put on hold at the middle school. If a decision is made to modify or combine (the elementary and middle schools), it wouldn’t make sense to go ahead and modify now, and then have to go back and redo the work, if the buildings were combined.”
From what he has heard on the street, Newman said the community supports the board’s decision to study the possibility of closing the grade school building.
“The majority of opinions I’ve heard are very practical,” Newman said. “That if the district needs to do it, to efficiently use the money, then that’s what we need to do. I think the community wants us to make sure we have evaluated everything before making a decision, and I think that’s what the board is doing.”