RFSD mulls late start to 2017-18 school year
Roaring Fork Schools may delay the start of the 2017-18 school year to account for the Grand Avenue bridge detour that will begin in mid-August, and to allow time to move into new school facilities that will also be finishing up construction at that time.
The school calendar change, if adopted, would push the start of the school year for Glenwood Springs, Carbondale and Basalt schools after Labor Day weekend to Sept. 5, instead of Aug. 23 under the usual calendar scenario.
It would also mean the school year would not end until June 14, 2018, and that high school graduations would be the first weekend in June instead of Memorial Day weekend.
The change is being contemplated partly so the school district can buy a little extra time after the Colorado 82 detour goes into effect to see what transportation adjustments might need to be made, Roaring Fork School District Superintendent Rob Stein said during a presentation of the proposed calendar to the school board last week.
“This gives us an extra two weeks to adapt and plan for any scheduling changes,” Stein said. “It also allows people some time to know how they need to adjust their personal schedules for getting to and from work.”
A delayed start to school was also recommended by the Colorado Department of Transportation, so that Grand Avenue bridge project officials have time to evaluate how the detour is functioning before the onslaught of extra traffic with the start of school, Stein said.
A recent survey determined that, in addition to school buses that cross the Grand Avenue bridge on a daily basis, 175 district staff members use the bridge to get to work every day, said Jeff Gatlin, chief operating officer for the school district. Another 650 parents also cross the bridge or use part of the detour route every day to get their kids to school, he said.
For the first three months of next school year when the final segment of the new bridge is being built, that traffic will be using the north Midland Avenue and Eighth Street detour between Interstate 70 Exit 114 and Grand Avenue/82.
The school district has its own internal reasons for considering the schedule change. Two major school projects, including the first phase of the Glenwood Springs Elementary School renovation and the new K-8 school south of Glenwood, as well as a host of smaller school projects, will be wrapping next August.
District officials anticipate GSES students moving into the new portion of their building to start the school year, while the old part of the building is gutted and renovated. The remodel is expected to be finished in February 2018.
Likewise, the new K-8 school, proposed to be called “Riverview School” is to be ready for about 350 students at the start of next school year.
An extra two weeks to finish those projects and get moved into the facilities would be helpful, Gatlin said. Renovations are also ongoing at Basalt schools that could benefit from the extra time.
In addition to the later start and finish to the school year, a few mid-year calendar changes are also being proposed, including an earlier fall break day on Oct. 9 and one less day for the December/January winter break.
The public will have a chance to comment on the calendar changes, including at the regular school board meeting this Wednesday in Carbondale and again in January before the calendar is formally considered for adoption.
One concern that has already been expressed, according to Gatlin, is that summer day camps usually end earlier in August, leaving the families that use those programs without daytime supervision for their children for a couple of weeks.
Middle and high school sports would also be starting before school even begins in some cases, he said. Scheduling for the Roaring Fork Precollegiate program would also be impacted, as would the application process for free and reduced lunch.
Normally, the calendar for the following school year is not approved until sometime in March or April, but Stein said the district wanted to get an early start on that process given the potential for significant changes.
“There is some urgency to get the information out there and start our communications with parents and staff,” he said.
Another option that could be considered if people are concerned about the resulting late finish to the school year would be to shorten what’s now a weeklong break at Thanksgiving, at least for next school year.
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Interstate 70 through Glenwood Canyon may be closed intermittently Wednesday through the weekend, as highway crews break down and remove boulders and patch potholes caused by Tuesday’s rock slide.