Downvalley schools study future needs | AspenTimes.com

Downvalley schools study future needs

Pete Fowler
Glenwood Springs correspondent
Aspen, CO Colorado

GLENWOOD SPRINGS ” Who’s going to be coming to our schools, how many of them, and from where?

Those seem to be the questions behind an $18,120 enrollment and demographic study approved by the Roaring Fork School District Re-1 Board of Education Wednesday at a meeting in Glenwood Springs. The study will paint the picture of when and where the district will need to add new schools.

“Having that information allows us to take a look in the future and anticipate where we’re going to add new schools,” said superintendent Judy Haptonstall. “We’re keeping an eye on enrollment, but right now Sopris Elementary School (Glenwood) is full, Glenwood Springs Middle School is full and Basalt Elementary School is full.”

That doesn’t mean the district needs to go out and start building new schools right away, she said, but rather that it must start taking a serious look at when and where future facilities will need to come online.

The study will forecast enrollments and make recommendations on potential future school locations. A final report is expected to include maps illustrating the findings.

The three-month study proposal by Strategic Resources West Inc. (SRW) includes an overview of the local economy and implications of enrollment growth, enrollment history and trends, student yields by housing unit type and area, development-based enrollment forecasts with school capabilities for up to 10 years to illustrate facility needs.

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SRW conducts similar studies for many school districts and conducted one for the RFSD in 2000. That study came into play for the district’s last bond election, Haptonstall said.

A letter from SRW to Haptonstall divides the study into six major steps: economic and demographic overview, residential development analysis, enrollment history and trends, student yield update, facility adequacy assessment, and the final report.

SRW would gather information from a variety of sources.

“Several local information sources, such as Holy Cross Energy, will be contacted to ascertain the relative magnitude of economic activity by area,” it states. “Interviews will be conducted with municipal and county planning and economic development officials as well as local developers and builders.”

SRW also plans to network with RFSD staff and use district enrollment records as a source to develop forecasts. The proposal says SRW will examine comprehensive plans and master plans for each community, as well as housing data from county assessors’ offices. Haptonstall said SRW also looks to hospitals to measure birth rates.

The RFSD covers public schools in Glenwood Springs, Carbondale and Basalt. Bill Lamont, who is seeking election for one vacant school board seat, appeared at Wednesday’s meeting to observe.

All the information will be compiled into a final report. It will include findings and recommendations about enrollment forecasts and potential school locations. Maps will be developed to illustrate potential residential development and future school attendance areas, according to SRW’s letter.

SRW indicated that the study could begin within four weeks after approval and the results could be presented in about three months.