Delta County School District

Special to Delta County Independent

Dating back to 1981, when the four high schools in Delta County were built, the question began of one high school vs. two high schools in the North Fork Valley. This conversation has been discussed multiple times with different district administrations and different school boards, but school configuration has ultimately remained the same over the years.

The Delta County School District has taken a closer look at this issue over the past two years utilizing a community group, composed of members from across Delta County, doing a thorough study of different configuration possibilities during the 2019-2020 school year. Because of COVID-19, that study was forced to become virtual for the last couple of meetings, and the group was not able to report to the school board until June 2020. At this meeting, they presented the pros and cons of a possible reconfiguration. This committee was conflicted and was able to see the value in both a reconfiguration and the value in keeping the schools intact with the current configuration. The school board and district administration were very thankful for the time and effort of these individuals, but due to COVID-19 the conversation took a back seat, so it could get the schools running with all of the new protocols that had to be implemented for students’ safety.

In recent months the Delta County School Board and district administration have brought this topic back to the table and have been having some serious discussions. They have been looking at three major areas: 1) Student options and educational opportunities 2) Enrollment 3) Fiscal responsibility. The Delta County School Board and district leadership are strongly considering reconfiguring the school structures in the North Fork Valley after studying these three areas. They have narrowed it from nine options to two.

The two options being considered are:

One high school in Hotchkiss, a K-8 school in Paonia, a K-8 school in Hotchkiss, a K-6 (NFSIS) in Paonia.

One high school in Paonia, one middle school in Hotchkiss, a K-5 school in Paonia, a K-5 school in Hotchkiss, a K-5 (NFSIS) at Paonia.

Due to the decline in enrollment in the North Fork schools, it has been harder and harder to maintain the appropriate options for our students. The enrollment drives the number of teachers in each school district building and as enrollment declines, it becomes difficult to maintain the teachers necessary to offer all that is needed for our students. The district has been able, up to this year, to maintain the proper number of teachers needed to meet the needs; however, that has come at a cost. Those schools are costing more per student to operate, with the current number of teachers, than the district receives from the state for each student. The district understands that it cannot maintain this much longer.

After reviewing all of the data the district feels it can provide higher quality education to students by pursuing one of the options proposed as well as becoming more fiscally responsible to our taxpayers. It also provides an exciting opportunity for the students and communities to become united in supporting our students of the North Fork. The district understands this is a major decision and is taking it very seriously.

The school district is looking for your input on this decision and will be holding a community meeting in Paonia on Wednesday, Feb. 10, at Paonia Jr/Sr High starting at 6 p.m., and a community meeting in Hotchkiss on Thursday, Feb. 11, at Hotchkiss High School starting at 6 p.m. These meetings will be in the commons area of each high school. Masks will be required and social distancing will be enforced while in the meeting. If you do not feel comfortable coming to the meeting in person the district has also set up a pros and cons comment section on its website at deltaschools.com. The district administration will also be setting up office hours in each community for individuals to come in and visit or ask questions. The office hours will be Feb. 12 from 8 a.m.- noon at the Paonia Energy Tech building (old middle/high school) in Paonia and Feb. 12, from 1-4 p.m. at Heritage Hall in Hotchkiss. All information will be communicated and considered by the district.

The school district is very aware of the magnitude of the decision but feels the best thing for students and the district is to make this change. The district feels the options and opportunities for our students are first and foremost, and the reconfiguration allows our students the best opportunity to be successful. This change will be a defining moment in the Delta County School District and will allow our students to succeed at the highest level.

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