Aspen has great schools; but so does Basalt |

Aspen has great schools; but so does Basalt

Last week’s Aspen Times Weekly cover story described an interesting and, perhaps, disturbing trend, that more midvalley schoolchildren are transferring to the Aspen School District.

The reasons for this minor migration are many and complex, and certainly parents have the right to send their children where they wish. It must also be stated that the Aspen schools offer an excellent educational facility and programs.

Still, we believe Basalt parents owe it to themselves and their community to thoroughly take a look at their local schools. As Basalt and the midvalley grow in population and sophistication, the school system, too, is evolving and maturing.

Here are a few examples:

Basalt has a well-documented problem retaining teachers, many of whom cannot afford rising midvalley rents. Fortunately, the Roaring Fork School District, which includes the Basalt, Carbondale and Glenwood schools, is looking ahead.

District officials are working with citizens and town officials to build affordable housing near Basalt High School. The experienced members of Basalt’s teaching staff – high school history teacher Karen Green was featured recently in The Aspen Times daily – is as good as any, and the potential to retain more talented teachers is a promising development.

As last week’s story pointed out, the demographics of the midvalley are also changing drastically. The ongoing influx of Latinos is transforming the look, feel and culture of the region. Some embrace the change and some seem to fear it. But the Basalt district has done an admirable job of simply adapting to the new reality and incorporating Latino children into its educational agenda.

Through a grant from the Aspen Valley Community Foundation, the district is also launching a new effort to lower dropout rates among Latino high-schoolers, and to steer the teens into colleges and universities.

We applaud these efforts to adapt and improve under challenging circumstances.

This week we learned just what the student migration means for the downvalley district, in dollars and cents. An estimated 230 out-of-district students are now attending Aspen schools. Through the oddities of state school financing, the downvalley district loses roughly $1.2 million through this shift, while Aspen receives an extra $1.8 million.

The net effect is hard to gauge. While the Basalt schools receive less money, they also have to educate fewer kids. According to Roaring Fork school officials, however, the reduction in income essentially removes the cream from the funding pot, hampering everything from school supplies to “nonessential” programs that many parents seek out in Aspen.

We don’t have the solution for the cash-strapped downvalley district, and we believe people should be able to send their kids where they want. But we ask midvalley parents to consider not only the impacts of each out-of-district transfer, but also the solid education offered by the Basalt schools.

Consider this statement by parent David Behr (see letter below) about his kindergarten-age son: “He can’t wait to come home to show us what he has learned and is just bursting at the seams to learn more. We’re also pleased to report he is learning Spanish and has developed friendships with Latino children.”

Not a bad report card.

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