Rangely School Board considers closing of Parkview Elementary

RANGELY — Given the state of the economy, Rangely School District, like other tax-supported entities, is looking for ways to save money.
One way to do that may be to consolidate its facilities.
No decision has been made — the district wants input from the public first — but school officials are considering closing Parkview Elementary.
“It’s been thrown out there (as a possibility),” said Superintendent Dwayne Newman.
Parkview is the oldest of the district’s three school buildings. It was built in 1978. The middle school was built in 1984 and the high school in 1986.
If the grade school was closed, the current middle school could be converted to a preschool through sixth-grade facility, and grades seventh through 12th would be at the high school, Newman said.
With the current enrollment, and based on projections for future enrollment remaining at about the same level, Newman said it’s smart for the district to evaluate its facility needs.
“Do we need all of the space we have?” he said. “We’ve got space for over 1,100 kids in this district, not counting the EEC (Early Education Center, which formerly housed the district’s administrative offices and preschool), and we’ve got under 500 kids (enrolled). I think the district really is wise now to start looking at whether they need to maintain that much space, and to analyze if it’s better, at this point, to go to a two-building configuration.”
The Early Education Center is still owned by the school district, but the space is leased. The building is for sale.
“But it will be tough to move a building that size in this economy,” Newman admitted.
District enrollment for this year has dropped, and the downturn in the economy had something to do with the decline in the number of students, Newman said.
“We really thought we were going to have 480 kids,” Newman said. “That’s what our full-time equivalency was a couple of weeks after the doors opened (for the start of the school year). But that number dropped to 464 by the time the official date came the first of October, and your funding for the rest of the year is based on that per-pupil count. We actually ended up with 10 more kids than last year, which helped a little bit. But when oil prices started going down, we saw an exodus from here.”
A decision needs to be made about future use of the district’s facilities before final determinations are made on where to spend the bond money on school improvements, Newman said.
“We don’t want to pour bond money into renovating the elementary school, if the best option long term for the district is to close that school,” Newman said. “We are going to go back and talk to the bond attorney about what we can do, if the scope (of the project) changes, to make sure we’re doing the things that we’re allowed to do and we don’t violate the spirit of the bond election.”
If the district were to close the elementary school, it may need to expand the middle school to accommodate the additional grades, Newman said.
“We would probably be looking at an addition at the middle school,” he said. “It would be smart now, when we have the funds, if we can do it, and the big ‘if’ is if the community supports this, to look at a remodel or an addition.
“The high school has plenty of capacity for growth,” Newman continued. “We may need to do a little remodeling. But the middle school would be tight, if we had any kind of significant growth, in its current configuration.”
Before going ahead on any plans for consolidation, the district wants to hear from the public.
“We want to get the community in on this,” Newman said. “We’re planning on having a number of meetings coming up here. We want to gather information and gauge public response and go forward from there. We want to see what parents and taxpayers want from the district, and then move in that direction.”
While re-assessing its school improvement plans, the district settled on a general contractor for the construction projects. Shaw Construction of Grand Junction, one of six companies interviewed by a committee, was selected.
“They are very familiar with the area, and they have a very good reputation,” Newman said. “They had, by far, the best plan for involving local contractors and suppliers. They are already setting up an informational meeting with local folks, so we keep the bond monies here.”
The selection won’t be finalized until it is approved by the school board, but the process is moving forward.
“It goes before the board at our next meeting, but they (Shaw) will be our recommendation,” Newman said.