Student numbers down at CBCS

Lowest kindergarten enrollment since 2005

by Olivia Lueckemeyer

Only 36 students are enrolled in kindergarten for the upcoming school year at the Crested Butte Community School, the sharpest decline in enrollment since 2005. Though the figure may change slightly over the summer, the number stands in stark contrast to the 50-plus average that has become the norm in recent years.

In contrast, due to the largest class in the community school’s history of 71 students moving into sixth grade, the secondary school will see an increase of 25 students, prompting the need for an additional teacher.

In total, CBCS enrollment is down by 10 students for the upcoming year. Elementary principal Sally Hensley attributes the downturn to a blip on the birth rate radar in Crested Butte.

At an April 25 school board meeting, business manager Stephanie Juneau explained to the RE1J board of education the effect this reduction of students at the elementary level has on the distribution of teachers.

“CBES in total will now have approximately 35 fewer students than it does right now, so naturally that impacts how many teachers we have in elementary school,” Juneau said.

Because of the decline in kindergarten enrollment, the number of teachers will be reduced from three to two. The third-grade level will also lose one teacher as the current class moves into fourth grade, bringing the overall teacher count at the Crested Butte Elementary School down two teachers. One teacher will lose their job as a result of this decline, however Hensley said this person is actively pursuing available teaching positions in Gunnison.

Incoming fourth and fifth grade student-to-teacher ratios are teetering on the edge of requiring an additional teacher, so Juneau plans to account for that possibility within the first draft of the budget for the upcoming year, to be presented to the board in May.

“As we watch the numbers we will figure out how that ends up,” Juneau said. “I have a sense that one more elementary teacher may be needed.”

Due to the lack of teachers at the elementary level, Juneau also recommended to the board that the district hire two educational assistants (EAs) to help balance the adult-to-student ratio. One EA would provide general intervention services, while the other would assist with lunch and recess duties among other things.

This would help offset the burden on teachers by reducing their duties outside of the classroom from two to one per week, and instead give them more time to work on classroom instruction.

“If we can give back to those teachers one of those duty times by hiring this person, that provides a huge value of those teachers to do what we want them to be doing,” Juneau explained to the board.

The cost of two additional EAs would equal the cost of one full-time teacher. Juneau plans to incorporate this cost into the first draft of the 2016-2017 budget.

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