Berthoud residents disgruntled with TSD plan for overcrowded schools

By Aaron Reynolds

The Surveyor

The podium during public comment at the April 18 Thompson School District board of education was a revolving door of concerned parents, faculty, and even students who questioned the district’s direction toward handling over-crowding at Ivy Stockwell and Berthoud Elementary.

A series of speakers took the microphone, choosing their words carefully, though the overall theme was the Berthoud community is largely opposed to moving fifth-grade students to Turner Middle School in order to deal with near-capacity enrollments at Berthoud El and Ivy. Furthermore, many representatives from Berthoud El also questioned why the school will receive no additional space for classrooms next year when there are two new proposed modulars that will be placed on the Ivy Stockwell campus.

“We will not accept fifth graders going to Turner when you are sending two modulars to Ivy yet cannot explain why none are going to Berthoud El,” a Berthoud resident named Dawn told the board during public comment. “We are tired of being told we’ll get used to it. We are tired of our students being treated like guinea pigs.”

Michelle, another member of the Berthoud community, shared Dawn’s analogy of fifth graders being treated like guinea pigs and added: “I implore you to make some critical decisions before handling overcrowding in Berthoud. Are this year’s fourth graders mentally prepared to move over to Turner next year? I’ve talked to fifth graders and asked what they think about going to middle school next year. One reaction is ‘I’m both excited and nervous.’ We are not giving these fourth graders the opportunity to go through these feelings and emotions to process [before transitioning to middle school].”

Michelle also questioned where the extra six classrooms or so would exist inside Turner at the moment to support the incoming fifth graders from Berthoud EL and Ivy. And, if only one school was selected to send their fifth graders to TMS while the others stayed put, how that would impact the overall culture of the town.

“Part of what makes Berthoud so dynamic is serving as a feeder for both elementary schools into middle school [at the same time],” she added.

Perhaps the most surprising speaker during public forum was Tyler, a senior at Berthoud High School, who joked why he should care about the school district when he “has only 38 days and counting left [before graduation].”

“It’s simply not a feasible solution to keep fifth graders segregated from 6-8 graders,” he explained regarding the district’s proposal that those students would rarely, if ever, interact with the rest of the middle school, since many question if fifth graders are at the same physical and emotional level as, for example, eighth graders.

“I know my education experience was fantastic, and I want the same for my brothers and other members of the district.”

Another resident named Tiffany concluded, “We love the teachers, the staff, the school culture [here at Berthoud]… our concerns right now come with the current growth. I know the previous ballot issues didn’t pass, but I think that means we need to better inform the public. I urge you to not give up the fight and opt for short-term solutions for long-term problems.”

According to Margaret Crespo, chief academic officer at TSD, Ivy Stockwell has a current enrollment of 352 students with a capacity of 355, as well as a projected enrollment of 357 for 2018. In order to deal with overcrowding, the district is proposing to relocate two modulars from Garfield Elementary and Conrad Ball Middle School in Loveland to provide four additional classroom spaces.

Berthoud Elementary, meanwhile, currently has an enrollment of 470 students with a capacity of 480, and a projected growth to 750 students by 2025 – yet no immediate proposals to add more classroom space in the near future.

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