Thompson School District closes two schools, discusses bond options

By Amber McIver-Traywick

The Surveyor

Thompson School District Board of Education officially made the decision at its last meeting on May 16 to close two Loveland elementary schools and bring modular classrooms to both Ivy Stockwell and Berthoud Elementary schools.

The school closures were due in part to the extreme financial deficit of $14-15 million the district is rapidly approaching for the 2020 school year. The Van Buren and Stansberry elementary schools will be closing at the end of the 2018-19 school year. Meetings were held at both locations prior to the end of the school year to inform parents of the decision. The students who attended Van Buren will be attending Namaqua, and Stansberry students will attend Monroe. The closing schools were the smallest in the district.

The entire board unanimously voted for the closures, however, as each board member echoed the rest, it was a hard decision for them to make. The closings will save the district an estimated $2 million per year. Board member Pam Howard said ultimately their role as a board is to be “stewards of tax payer money,” and  assured concerned parents, many of whom spoke during the public comment portion of the meeting, that “We can make sure those students are well cared for elsewhere in the district.”

Gordon Jones, the chief financial officer for the district, commented that students throughout the district have the opportunity to open-enroll at any school, and the district is working to ensure no teachers or administrators lose their jobs in the transition.

The district’s master plan committee presented options to the board later in the meeting for both bond options and MLO options for the members to consider and will be decided on in future meetings. The committee, which is comprised of district staff as well as volunteers from the community, have been dealing with plans to address the mounting needs of the district, including balancing the budget and creating a plan in the event increased funds are not made available through bonds and mill levy overrides (MLO). The board will soon make a final decision on which will then be presented to voters in November. In one of the options both Ivy Stockwell and Berthoud Elementary are specifically listed for additions to be constructed on the existing buildings.

Voters declined a $288 million bond in 2016 as well as an $11 million MLO which would have helped fill the growing funding gaps for the district. Some of the latest recommendations are far less reaching than the 2016 initiative; Pam Howard commented one option cuts the bond from 2016 almost in half making it a “meat and potatoes” effort.

The board also voted 6-1 to move modular classrooms that are currently located at Garfield Elementary and Conrad Ball Middle School to ease the growing population of Berthoud’s elementary schools. Margaret Crespo, the district’s chief academic officer stated the modular units are currently being utilized for storage purposes and as a teacher’s lounge at their current locations, when board members expressed concern over taking classroom space from other schools in the district.

Lori Hvizda Ward was the only board member to vote against the modulars being moved to Berthoud. She stated Ivy Stockywell’s capacity of 355 students is projected to reach 357 in the next school year and Berthoud Elementary, with a capacity of 480 had an attendance projection of 471. She felt that, “I don’t see those numbers as having the urgency that I would feel we need to proceed.” To relocate the modulars will cost $288,000. This will include permitting, utilities, roofing needs and to ensure the modulars are set up to meet the requirements of the Americans with Disabilities Act. Board member Barbara Cruz said, “It’s not going to get better if we don’t move something down there right away; it’s going to take two or three years for the construction …by the time that is done they’re going to be exploding down there, and they’re going to need more modular. I think this is the right thing for us to do.”

Finally, the 2018-19 school year calendar was approved, which is a repeat of last year’s schedule. The next board of education meeting is scheduled for June 6.

 

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