Letter: RE-1 needs more capacity, not in this location
I believe that strong public schools are essential, and I’m a big fan of the RE-1 school district in particular, which provided great educational opportunities for my children. I supported the district¹s 1999 and 2004 bond issues and its mill-levy increase in 2011.
I’m not sure, however, whether I can support the school district¹s latest plans for another $122 million bond issue. Granted, there’s a lot to like, including $20 million for a long-overdue renovation of Glenwood Springs Elementary and $15 million for subsidized teacher housing and additional facility improvements in Carbondale and Basalt.
But what stops me cold is the $35 million planned for building a new pre-K to eighth-grade school along Highway 82, between Glenwood Springs and Carbondale.
It would be one thing if there were a large number of school-age children living nearby in Westbank, Ironbridge and Cattle Creek. But there aren’t. Instead, the school district intends the new school to primarily provide “enrollment relief” for overcrowded Glenwood and Carbondale schools.
If this new school is built on district property next to the Westbank turnoff, we will be committing hundreds of students, parents and district staff to a long, sometimes dangerous, daily vehicle commute to and from their home communities. We’ll also deprive hundreds of young children of the ability to walk or ride bikes to and from after-school activities.
I realize it’s challenging to find suitable land for schools in our narrow, expensive valley. But busing kids off to a remote location miles from their homes is not the right answer — nor is it good land-use planning.
Locating a school that far outside of city limits will increase traffic and sprawl while costing taxpayers more to provide services outside existing urban areas. Bus transportation, for instance, will almost certainly cost much more.
I didn’t like this location for a school back in 2001 when the district was eyeing it for a combined Glenwood-Carbondale high school. I believe the school board made the right choice a few years later by expanding GSHS at its current downtown location. Yet here we are a decade later, once again looking to resolve Glenwood’s school crowding situation by shipping kids out of town.
Perhaps one day, if realistic plans emerge for developing the Cattle Creek and Spring Valley areas, there’ll be need for an elementary or middle school in that area. But until then, the RE-1 school district should put its Westbank property back on the shelf and focus instead on dealing with school overcrowding where it actually exists: in Glenwood Springs, Carbondale and Basalt.
Here’s hoping it’s not too late for the school district to re-think its expansion strategy. I would love to be able to support its upcoming bond issue.
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