FREMONT COUNTY, Colo. – Florence High School, the “Home of the Huskies,” could soon get some younger Huskies walking their halls. The Fremont RE-2 School District is considering a school consolidation plan that would close Florence Middle School and send some of the students to the high school campus.
“They would do their 6th-grade year in elementary and our 7th and 8th-grade students would move up to the high school,” explained Superintendent Brenda Krage, Ph.D.
The problems at Florence Middle School are the same as they were a decade ago when this was a high school. It’s a century-old building with multiple staircases that don’t meet the needs of students in wheelchairs. The only ADA accessible entrance is located in the rear of the building.
While an elevator and chairlifts were added, some classes remain inaccessible. For example, the 7th-grade science room is located on a landing in between two sets of stairs.
“The systems are antiquated and we have a large enough population of students who need to access all classrooms and all activities, that’s important to all of our children,” Krage said.
Declining enrollment and falling property tax collections also account for the district having less money to spend. However, Dr. Krage says the consolidation has more to do with creating a safe and proper learning environment. The new high school facility would meet those needs and it has room to spare.
“If we take this year’s 7th and 8th-grade enrollment and this year’s 9 through 12, we still are not at the capacity of 750,” she said. “In fact, I would have about 185 spots that I can still fill with enrollment. So, we have room to grow.”
But what about the student’s maturity levels? This proposal would put students in the pre-teen and early teenage years in the same building as juniors and seniors who are preparing for college and careers.
“Actually what research would tell you is that modeling of older students actually helps the maturity of your younger students,” Krage said. “Plus, when you look at the layout of that new high school building, the kids are not all in one room together.”
She expects to adjust the size of the staff by eliminating duplicated positions through attrition. The middle school building itself would likely be sold. Krage met with the city planning office Monday to discuss potential future uses of the site.
Krage plans to keep parents informed of the changes through direct messages and documents that will be posted on the district website. The public is always welcome at Board of Education meetings. The next regularly scheduled meeting will be held on December 10.