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Jan 11, 2013 1:35 AM by jacqui Heinrich, jheinrich@koaa.com

Students, parents, teachers react to D-11 school closure proposal

Colorado Springs' largest school district is continuing to find ways to cut costs, including a proposal to close or consolidate three schools. Thursday night School District 11 held a public meeting to present solutions submitted to the Board of Education for review, but some community members balked at the idea of closing or re-purposing schools many know and love.

"If i wasn't at Wasson, I wouldn't be in the top of my academic class. I'm one of the top ten in my class; that is a first for me," Shelby-Ann Sharpton, a junior at Wasson High School, told News 5 after giving a passionate testimony before the attendees in the auditorium. It was an emotional night at the Tesla Education Center; about thirty parents, students, and teachers attended the public meeting where ideas presented to the Board of Education-- including recommendations to close Wasson High and Lincoln and Bates Elementary Schools-- were disseminated to the community.

Sharpton seized the opportunity to speak for her peers, concerned that integrating Wasson kids into other schools in the district might hurt the one-on-one learning experience students have so far enjoyed. "I dont do well in big classes because I'd just be a voice shouting in the silence with no one to hear me," she said. 

Some of her teachers agree; one woman who has been teaching at Wasson for the past seven years said, "Moving programs to one location is the most ridiculous idea I have ever heard. Alternative schools are designed to be small."

School officials, on the other hand, say something needs to change. Declining enrollment and poor student performance has put kinks in the budget. Wasson is only operating at half capacity; they say closing or consolidating some schools in the district will ultimately provide more classes for students to choose from, and an overall better learning experience. "Declining enrollment is a reality," Dr. Nicholas Gledich, D-11 Superintendent said at the podium. "In the last ten years our enrollment has decreased by 14% and the revenue we received has decreased by 16%."

Throughout the past few months school officials sought public input to put forth the best ideas to solve the issues. "We listened to every person's feedback, their comments, their concerns; we've done our best to answer their questions and now we have to move it forward to the Board to see what their decision is going to be," Devra Ashby, D-11 spokesperson told News 5.

In the meantime, though, some parents, students, and teachers feel they're being short-changed. "I really hope you keep us open for at least one more year for all of us juniors who want to graduate from our school," Sharpton said, concluding a tearful plea to the board members.

The Board of Education has reviewed the plan and following public input, the plan will move forward as a non-action item on January 23rd, and as an action item on February 6th.

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