Basalt parents want answers about school boundary |

Basalt parents want answers about school boundary

Katie Redding
The Aspen Times
Aspen, CO Colorado

BASALT ” The Roaring Fork School District hasn’t decided whether siblings of already enrolled Basalt Elementary School students will be allowed to attend the school next year if the families live outside the attendance area.

Holding tight on the Basalt Elementary School boundaries was one of the biggest concerns for the roughly 50 parents, largely mothers, who met at the school Wednesday.

“That’s why everyone is here,” said Roaring Fork School District Superintendent Judy Haptonstall, who came to answer questions.

The RE-1 School Board decided at its January meeting that it would no longer accept students at Sopris and Basalt Elementary schools who live outside the attendance boundaries. Both schools are at capacity, while Carbondale Elementary School has space.

The district is still figuring out how many of the estimated 60 children who live outside of the Basalt boundary but attend Basalt Elementary have siblings, Haptonstall said. It will decide whether the siblings can attend Basalt Elementary School in the next few months, she said.

No students already attending will be asked to leave, she confirmed.

Several parents expressed frustration with the new policy, noting other children in their neighborhood attend the elementary school or that their real estate agent said their house was within the attendance boundary. One parent asked how to go about changing the district boundaries.

Haptonstall said requests for boundary changes must be taken to the school board. But she was not encouraging.

“We have to find some way to slow this down,” she said, noting that oversized classes aren’t fair to those who do reside within the boundary.

Haptonstall did, however, point out that with the economic downturn, attendance next year is anyone’s guess.

“For all we know, we could be down so many kids next year, it’s not an issue,” she said.

But she won’t know until next fall, she pointed out.

“People don’t call me in the middle of summer and say ‘We’re leaving and we’re taking four kids with us,'” she said.

Haptonstall also said that, as a next step to prevent overcrowding, the district will remodel the Old Brick Building, which once housed classrooms and the elementary school library.

Haptonstall said the district would likely build a new school in Blue Lake, a subdivision in El Jebel, where it has already secured 7 acres and has a contract to purchase 7 more.

She also addressed parents’ concerns about short teacher tenure at the Basalt schools ” an issue parents attributed to the lack of affordable housing for teachers.

She explained the district has land in Carbondale and long-standing plans for 89 units. But she conceded that significant hurdles still exist for the project ” such as an $8 million funding shortfall.

“I believe this is the ninth year we’ve been working on that project,” Haptonstall said.

Haptonstall said she is seeking funding from other sources, including Garfield County, and allowed a bond is a possibility ” but not in the current economic climate.

Haptonstall and Principal Suzanne Wheeler-Del Piccolo also addressed questions about training for teachers and paraprofessionals, non-elective placement in bilingual classrooms, and pay-for-performance teaching models, among other issues.

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