School Consolidation Frequently Asked Questions

Why is Mesa County Valley School District 51 consolidating schools?

Much like school districts across the nation, District 51 has and continues to experience a decline in enrollment. The trend of declining enrollment is being attributed in part to the COVID-19 Pandemic, as well as other demographic factors that are affecting birth rates and school populations.

To provide the best service, learning experiences, and programs for our D51 students and staff, we need to consolidate our smaller programs into larger ones that fill the needs of our district.

We believe in the strengths of our people, our schools, and our communities. To deliver individualized, collaborative, and challenging educational experiences to each and every student, we need to address the current challenges our district is facing.

  • D51’s student enrollment count was 22,082 in the 2018-19 school year. The current enrollment is 20,851. This is a decline of over 1,200 students or about 5.5%. Incoming grades are expected to be smaller than outgoing ones, meaning enrollment is projected to continue to decline by 300-400 students per year in the coming years.

  • Colorado school districts are funded based on per-pupil enrollment. During declining enrollment, districts are funded at the highest amount possible using a five-year rolling student count average to help spread the funding reductions. District 51’s student count has declined for three years, and only two higher enrollment years remain in the calculation. This year, for example, D51 is receiving approximately $5 million in funding above the actual student count as a result of averaging. This averaging benefit will significantly decrease over the next two years and going forward as we adjust to the new student population sizes.

  • The operation of small schools oftentimes does not correlate to better service. Many of our small schools at D51 have fewer full-time services, activities, and clubs. In addition, more students are needed to support running programs such as before and after-school care or certain elective programs, resulting in a deficit of the exemplary service we want to provide all our D51 students.

What is the purpose of consolidating schools?

As enrollment continues to decline, it leads to inefficient and unsustainable staffing, difficulties providing adequate student services such as special education services and multiple course offerings, underutilization of facilities, and increased safety risks.

Combining smaller programs into larger ones will allow our schools to offer more robust resources and services for the students and staff it serves.

When was the decision to consolidate schools made?

Over the past couple of months, District 51 has been engaged in various planning and budgetary discussions regarding declining enrollment. D51 has been working closely with our district demographer to analyze the current situation and prepare for projections of where our enrollment is leading.

Shannon Bingham with Western Demographics Inc. first presented to the Board of Education in January. He then began working with D51 Senior Leadership, conducting outreach, gathering data, and visiting school buildings. Recommendations for school consolidation will be presented to the Board of Education on February 21. The Board of Education will be responsible for making the final decision on school closures and the timeline for those closures.

Can anything else be done/cut to keep the schools open?

The cost of operating a school includes supplies and materials, services and programs, capital outlay, maintenance and utilities, and most importantly, the salaries and benefits to pay our people. Closing a school is only part of the overall district plan to be as efficient with our funding as possible. The overhead required to operate each school often leaves little flexibility in staffing in schools once enrollment falls below a certain level, making it difficult to offer the same level of support and services as at larger schools. Due to these difficulties and inefficiencies required to staff small schools, we are currently overstaffing our school buildings by over $3 million to preserve as much support as possible. That number is expected to increase as enrollments continue to decrease. This year, we are using ESSER funds to help cover part of that additional expense. However, these funds will expire at the end of the next school year.

How are the students and staff impacted going to be supported through this process?

We understand this is an incredibly difficult and emotional time for those impacted by these decisions. A transition plan is underway, and customized plans for each school will be shared with students, families, and staff as more information becomes available.

What happens if the school my student attends is named for consolidation?

All schools will remain open for the 2022-2023 school year. We have incredible staff and administrative teams serving our students, and they will continue to keep your students’ education, health, and well-being as their primary focus. The District will work with the schools named for consolidation to support students, families, and staff through the transition process.

Will the school consolidation process affect current District 51 boundaries?

Yes. While we remain committed to making this transition as easy as possible for all our D51 families, our district must shift the current boundaries to consolidate multiple schools.

The District will work with schools that are being named to close, as well as schools that will welcome new students due to consolidation and boundary shifts. We understand this may be difficult and emotional for our students and families. Our focus will be on ensuring that we cultivate environments where each and every student feels that they belong and has every opportunity to succeed and thrive.

Will this cause overcrowding at the other elementary schools?

No. The Board of Education and District Leadership are deciding how to consolidate schools based on the number of students and the capacity of the buildings. The operation of small schools oftentimes does not correlate to better service. Many of our small schools at D51 have fewer full-time services, activities, and clubs. In addition, more students are needed to support running programs such as before and after-school care or certain elective programs, resulting in a deficit of the exemplary service we want to provide all our D51 students.

What will happen to the principal, teachers, and staff at schools that are being consolidated?

District 51 remains committed to supporting our students, families, and staff through this transition. As a result of school consolidations, the District will work with current administrators, teachers, and classified staff in buildings being consolidated to explore available employment and leadership options within District 51 for the 2023-2024 school year.

Your school administration and teachers will continue to lead your school for the remainder of this school year.

If my student’s school is closing, how will my student get to their new school?

Eligibility for transportation in the 2023-2024 school year will be determined by the distance students live from the school. Adjusted boundary information will be shared once approved by Mesa County. For more information on eligibility for transportation, click here.

Will impacted families be able to participate in a “School of Choice” or student transfer process for the 2023-24 school year?

The District is still in the process of determining what options will be available to families affected by school consolidations and boundary shifts. We are committed to helping our families navigate this transition; more information will be available soon.

Will families have an opportunity to visit the new boundary school before the 2023-24 school year?

Yes. As we navigate these changes, our focus will be on ensuring that we cultivate environments where each and every student feels that they belong and has every opportunity to succeed and thrive. Your student will have opportunities to visit their new school and meet their new staff and classmates before the 2022-2023 school year.

If these changes impact your student, you will hear from the District about these opportunities as they become available.

What are you going to do with the facility once the school closes?

Neighborhood schools mean a lot to many students, families, staff, and their surrounding community. As we transition out of these buildings, there will be a specialized plan for each school and opportunities for our families to say goodbye and make the transition easier. More information on that process will be made available to those who are being impacted.

Once the school is closed, the Board of Education and School District leadership are looking into cost-effective and feasible options for each building. However, our main priority will remain on ensuring that impacted students, families, and staff are taken care of during this transition process, first and foremost.

Are you considering consolidating secondary schools?

District 51 is seeing the largest enrollment declines in our elementary and middle school levels. Again, this is due to low birth rates and other demographic factors impacting enrollment from the bottom up.

We are only consolidating elementary and middle school programs to provide better service and educational experiences in those grade levels.

The District is not currently considering consolidating schools at the High School Level. However, as part of the analysis conducted by our district demographer, down the road, we will be looking at strategies to address the inconsistent school grade configuration in our Fruita schools.

Once the school closes, will all of the students at the school (boundary and choice) have a place at the new neighborhood school?

Yes. Every student, whether School of Choice or boundaried, that currently attends a school named for consolidation will have a secured spot at the new neighborhood school.

What do I do if my child is in a school that offers PK, but the building will be closing?

We currently have 20 different preschool sites in District 51. As soon as decisions are made on consolidations, we will update the Bridge Care Portal with preschool location changes. We intend to provide even more preschool slots for our incoming preschoolers as compared to the 2022-2023 school year. We will communicate with our community on an updated preschool site list as soon as locations have been confirmed.

What will happen if my child is in a specialized education program at a closing school?

School District 51 plans to continue offering various specialized educational programs to serve our students with advanced learning plans, language needs, and programming for students with Individualized education plans. We will update any changes that may occur with the consolidation, but the type of services will continue to be made available for our students with diverse needs.