The Wheels On The Bus Go . . . Out of Town!
By Kathy Bedell, © Leadville Today
This week marks National School Choice Week (NSCW) which celebrates all of the K – 12 education options that parents can choose for their kids. In essence, it means giving parents the power to select the best education environments for their children.
This is the third and final post in a three-part series regarding #SchoolChoice if you live in Leadville and Lake County. Part I focused on the Lake County School District, their enrollment numbers and recent efforts for facility and testing improvements. Part II presented the options for charter and home-schooling for Lake County. In Part III, Leadville Today (LT) presents the enrollment picture for neighboring school districts in Buena Vista, as well as Summit and Eagle Counties.
When it comes to school choice, it’s one thing to decide on another local option, like Greater Heights Academy or homeschooling, but in a small town like Leadville choosing to send your kids to a neighboring school district, is a different animal. And nobody really likes to talk about it. It’s as if there’s a certain #SchoolChoice-shaming that exists – among adults!
While parents seem to be okay talking about their #SchoolChoice, not many are willing to go on-the-record concerning their reasons for opting out of the Lake County School District. They use words like “controversy” and explain that they don’t want to “stir the pot,” or subject their child to social-shaming, causing them to be dropped off the party invite list. But with more and more kids carpooling to class, it seems the divide is bigger than ever.
And there’s something else that’s growing: the amount of money that the LCSD leaves on the table each year as the per pupil dollar amount for each one of these students goes with them. This year, that amount is $8,014 for each kid. And while that number may not seem like much on its own, when multiplied by the growing exodus, it’s weighty. This year, the amount of money the local schools will lose due to #SchoolChoice is $1,266,212.00.
Headed South for Studies
During the summer months, the pull-off along Highway 24 south can be found packed with tourists looking to paddle their way down the mighty Arkansas River in their very own rafting adventure. But the rest of the year, the parking lot of Timberline Tours in Granite, acts as an ever-growing bus stop for Leadville students who have chosen to go south for their studies.
For decades, the Buena Vista (BV) School District has been the reigning #SchoolChoice for parents opting out of Lake County. Over that period of time, the BV schools have welcomed these students, and eventually began sending a school bus to meet parents half way in the small town of Granite, saving time and gas from the 30-mile commute. Now each year, as the migration grows, there are more and more cars in that parking lot at 3 p.m. waiting for their kids. In fact, for the 2017/18 school year, according to district representative Shelly Mueller, there are now two BV school buses picking up students at the Granite stop.
“The kids were much too crowded having to sit 3 to a seat,” explain Mueller in reference to last year’s bus schedule for Leadville students. “We divided them into elementary and middle (schools) on one bus and are putting the high school students on our little bus.”
The official October 1 headcount shows there are now 64 Lake County students enrolled in the Buena Vista School District. That number is up 9 students from the 55 Lake County students reported by BV school officials at this time last year.
- Kindergarten – 3 students
- 1st grade – 2 students
- 2nd grade – 3 student
- 3rd grade – 4 students
- 4th grade – 8 students
- 5th grade – 7 students
- 6th grade – 7 students
- 7th grade – 6 students
- 8th grade – 8 students
- 9th grade – 5 students
- 10th grade – 3 students
- 11th grade – 6 students
- 12th grade – 2 students
Leadville Today checked in with the private Christian School in Buena Vista, Darren Patterson that reported that “they currently have no students coming from Leadville, but have had several in prior years.”
Summit: Slip-sliding Away
If you’ve ever had to do the daily commute over Fremont Pass on Highway 91, then you understand how frightening it can be during winter snow storms.
Whiteout conditions, sparsely plowed roads and the whirling, swirling wind that seems too be prevalent in the area, can make for a white-knuckle, slow-and-go drive. For many of the parents who make Summit School District the #SchoolChoice for their children, they already make the daily commute for work, so it’s an all-in-the-family drive over icy, snow-packed mountain passes because these students are on their own when it comes to transportation.
And for 33 Leadville kids that commute is a daily reality. According to Summit School District’s Director of Communications & Community Engagement Julie McCluskie: For the 2017-2018 School Year, we have 33 students from Lake County in Summit School District. (Last year we had 32 students.) Eighteen students from LC in Kindergarten – 5th grade (our elementary school level.) We have 15 students from LC in 6th – 12th grade (our secondary school level.)
Students who make Summit their choice represent another $264,462.00 that the local school district in Leadville will not see this year.
The Summit County School District comprises of nine schools, teaching preschool to twelfth grade. The Summit School District is located at 150 School Rd, Frisco, CO 80443, and can be reach by phone at (970) 368-1000 or check out their website.
Fly Like an Eagle
Probably one of the most treacherous travel options when it comes to out-of-district #SchoolChoice would be the daily drive over Battle Mountain and Tennessee Pass, or Vail Pass to attend the Eagle County School District (ECSD); but 22 Leadville students do it every school day.
According to Eagle County student systems manager Marta Ellsworth, there are six Leadville students who will not be graduating from Lake County High School, but instead, turning their tassels in Eagle County this May 2018. These seniors comprise 6 of the 22 students from Leadville currently enrolled in the Eagle County schools.
As the official student count coordinator for Eagle County School District, Ellsworth provided the following student/grade breakdown by the numbers. It’s also important to note that Eagle County does not provide transportation for these students, which means that their parents are making the sacrifice and incurring the added expense to get them there. Several of these students take-the-cake for the biggest mileage award, clocking in nearly 75 miles – one way – to school from their homes in Leadville.
Here’s the official breakdown of these 22 students whose per pupil allotment will make up $176,308.00 which the Lake County School District will not have in their operating budget this year.
- Kindergarten – 2 students
- 2nd grade -1 student
- 3rd grade – 1 students
- 4th grade – 3 students
- 5th grade – 1 students
- 7th grade – 1 students
- 8th grade – 1 students
- 9th grade – 1 students
- 10th grade – 1 students
- 11th grade – 4 students
- 12th grade – 6 students
Eagle’s district claims a staff of 830 and a student body of nearly 7,000. The Eagle County School District is located at 948 Chambers Ave, Eagle, CO 81631. They can be reached by phone at (970) 328-6321 or visit their website.
That’s a wrap for the 2017/18 #SchoolChoice report brought to you by Leadville Today. At least now the numbers are there in black and white. Having choices is good and the landscape of education changes everyday. There’s no doubt that there are countless great teachers and dedicated staff in all of these classrooms and schools. Leadville Today wishes the best for all of them, but especially great success and a strong education for all the Leadville students, no matter where the school bus leads you!