Glenwood schools bursting at the seams |

Glenwood schools bursting at the seams

John Gardner
Glenwood Springs correspondent
Aspen, CO Colorado
Chris Ray teaches math Wednesday as others pass by her classroom, located in the hallway of Sopris Elementary School in Glenwood Springs. The school is out of room " make that rooms. (Kara K. Pearson/Post Independent)

GLENWOOD SPRINGS ” Sopris Elemen­tary School has large hallways. It’s proven to be an asset for a school that is currently exceeding its capacity of 542 kindergarten through fifth-grade stu­dents by about 50 kids.

At least one of the hallways at the Glenwood Springs school is currently being used as a class­room, along with any other free space that can be utilized.

“We are very full,” said Principal Howard Jay. “We could have easily increased our teach­ing staff by two full-time teachers this year, but we didn’t have any room for them.”

Jay said the elementary school saw a larger than anticipated increase in enrollment at a couple of grade levels. Even his office is currently being used for student testing.

“It’s a matter of finding space that can be used,” Jay said. “We just don’t have any more. We are really packed.”

Development around the south end of Glenwood Springs has increased the elementary school’s enrollment in the past couple of years, according to Jay.

And according to a recent facility master plan prepared by Strategic Resources West Inc. (SRW) out of Castle Rock, the growing pains aren’t over.

“Sopris and (Carbondale’s) Crystal River elementary schools are the schools where the most growth will occur,” said SRW owner Denny Hill, speaking at Tuesday’s Roaring Fork School District Re-1 school board meeting. “Additional space may be required within the next several years.”

Hill and Darci Wiley, a consultant with SRW, presented their report to the board. Valleywide growth was the main topic of discus­sion.

The master plan detailed potential enrollment growth of 8 percent in the district over the next five years. The report will help district officials plan how to deal with the impacts of growth and planned developments in the area.

“Looking long term, it’s not going to get better at Sopris,” said district Super­intendent Judy Haptonstall. “We have to start gearing up and have some dis­cussions and identify different loca­tions for new schools.”

Haptonstall said the district will purchase two modular classrooms for Sopris Elementary before the next school year, to alleviate overcrowd­ing.

The report details each individual grade’s and each school’s prospective growth through 2013. Sopris Ele­mentary and Glenwood Springs Middle School were among the schools projected to see the greated impacts.

Currently, the two schools are the only ones in the district that are over capacity, with Sopris at 589 students in kindergarten though fifth grade, and Glen­wood Springs Middle School at 523 students in sixth through eighth grade. The middle school is nearly 55 students over capacity and already has three mod­ular classrooms on site.

But adding rooms or modular classrooms to overcrowded schools isn’t the long-term answer, Hapton­stall said.

“When we’re talking about adding onto schools, we look at the size of the existing school and the size that you want the school to be,” Hapton­stall said. ” You don’t want a school that is too big. You want to keep the class sizes relatively small so you can personalize the students’ edu­cation.”

Sopris Elementary added eight classrooms in 2006 to alleviate over­crowding issues then, but it’s now dealing with the problem again.

“We are looking at another ele­mentary school in the area, and not adding to Sopris again,” Haptonstall said. “We don’t want to make it any larger.”

The projected student popula­tion at Sopris Elementary by 2013 is 592 students. That number is about the same as today, according to the report, because small declines in population in some grades are anticipated over the next couple of years as larger class­es move to the middle school level.

But, growth is expected to occur after 2013 with the completion of five approved or proposed housing developments in close proximity to the school. The student population could reach as much as 949 when the additional housing is built.

Three of the five elementary schools and two of the four middle schools in the district are projected to be over capacity by 2013. However, the report estimated all three of the district’s high schools ” in Glenwood, Carbondale and Basalt ” will accommo­date the anticipated growth nicely at least for the next five years.

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