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Ken Caryl Middle School gets reprieve

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By Emile Hallez

Ken Caryl Middle School apparently will remain open.

The Jeffco school board gathered for a special meeting Jan. 9 and ultimately decided that closing the school is not a viable option, despite a recommendation from a district committee to shutter the school and send its students to Deer Creek Middle School.

“That wasn’t a solution anymore,” board member Paula Noonan said of the informal vote to remove the option from consideration.

“We’re thrilled today,” Ken Caryl Middle School principal Pat Sandos said Monday. “My whole staff is excited. … The kids will be excited. They can focus on what they need to focus on.”

The board will meet Jan. 14 to officially receive recommendations from the Facilities Usage Committee, a citizen panel that assembled a list of money-saving options for the district. One of the committee’s final recommendations included closing and selling Ken Caryl and moving its student population to nearby Deer Creek Middle School beginning with the 2010-11 school year.

“As we looked at the true capacity of Deer Creek (Middle School) … it really was clear to me … that moving all of those kids over would be too big of a burden for that school,” Noonan said.

Closing Ken Caryl would have saved the district almost $885,000 per year and would have had an initial cost of about $70,000. The school currently uses about 4,800 square feet of temporary building space, which tends be cost more to operate than permanent structures.

“When you’re talking about dollars and cents, it looks a little different than if you’re talking about our kids,” Sandos had said after the committee’s final meeting in December.

Noonan said she received hundreds of e-mails from parents of Ken Caryl students.

“The school has fantastic support,” she said, adding that she hopes parents continue to show the same level of support in the coming months.

“Some very difficult decisions will have to be made,” she said of future budget decisions. “It’s going to be a long and dreary and complicated process.”

Moving the students would have dramatically boosted Deer Creek’s capacity from 45 percent to 94 percent, making the school nearly full.

A major safety concern voiced by parents and teachers at Ken Caryl was the possibility that students who walk to school would have had to cross South Wadsworth Boulevard on their way to Deer Creek.

The school district is facing budget cuts of $18 million to $20 million per year over the next three fiscal years. The Facilities Usage Committee, which is providing a list of 12 options to the board, says about $5.8 million could be saved per year through its plan.

“It’s a relief,” Sandos said of the board’s informal decision to spare Ken Caryl Middle, though he emphasized difficult times probably still lie ahead.

“I think there are still going to be some really tough decisions for the district to make. … Some of the education cuts coming from the state, I think, are going to be pretty significant. So I think we’ve still got a long way to go. But this first wave is done.”

 

Contact Emile Hallez Williams at emile@evergreenco.com or 303-933-2233, ext. 22. Check www.ColumbineCourier.com for updates.