Area special education services partnership to split

An organization that has been providing special education services and other programs to Roaring Fork Valley and Garfield County school districts for 45 years will split in two under a plan being reviewed by state education officials.

At one point, the Mountain Board of Cooperative Education Services (BOCES) took in 10 school districts stretching from Fairplay west across the Continental Divide to Parachute.

“The geography of the area has always been a major consideration for our members, especially with the snowy conditions and mountainous terrain,” said Troy Lange, executive director for Mountain BOCES.

The governing board that oversees the organization is made up of local school board members from each of the respective districts, meaning long drives around the 8,500-square-mile area to attend meetings, he said.

The new plan involves creating a separate administrative unit for Roaring Fork Re-1, Garfield Re-2 and Garfield District 16, while school districts in Buena Vista, Salida and Lake and Park counties would form their own unit.

Colorado Mountain College would also maintain its partnership with the respective BOCES units.

Yampah Mountain High School in Glenwood Springs, an alternative high school serving students from Parachute to Aspen, is also operated by Mountain BOCES.

It would remain under the western unit with the reorganization plan, Lange said.

At the time Mountain BOCES was formed in 1970, Leadville was its largest member district with 2,000 students, Lange said.

“As our districts on the I-70 corridor have grown bigger, the districts on the eastern side have gotten smaller, and the needs have really shifted,” he said.

Eagle County schools, which used to be part of Mountain BOCES, already have formed their own administrative unit. Likewise, Aspen and Summit County schools have applied to form their own unit starting next year, he said.

“That leaves a pretty large gap in the middle, so it made sense for the remaining seven districts to look at how we can best meet our respective needs,” Lange said.

Mountain BOCES currently operates under a regional model as it is. Lange, a Spring Valley resident, serves in the dual capacity as western regional services center director. With the reorganization he would remain director of the western BOCES unit.

Mountain BOCES also oversees the Wellspring program for middle school students with emotional/behavioral support needs, which is currently based in Rifle.

Other special education services provided by BOCES include programs for the deaf and hard of hearing and curriculum and staff development for special ed teachers.

The Colorado Department of Education is currently reviewing the application for reorganization, which could take up to 60 days, Lange said.

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