D51 Faces $10 Million in State Budget Cuts, Adapts For Fall Semester

Local News

GRAND JUNCTION, Colo.- The School District 51 superintendent says the district’s state budget will be cut by $10 million dollars because of COVID-19.

This is part of over $620 million dollars in statewide K-12 funding cuts, according to the Associated Press.

Governor Polis recently directed $510 million dollars of federal CARES Act funding to go to k-12 education in Colorado, specifically to be used for COVID-19 related changes to school districts.

A D51 spokesperson says the district is getting $11 million dollars of this funding, but those dollars can’t address current budget items, only addressing COVID-19 response.

“We’ll have some major cuts to make, around 10 million dollars,” said Superintendent Diana Sirko. “We’re looking very carefully about probably creating a multifaceted education.”

Sirko says D51 will hold a special board meeting in mid-July to determine what the fall semester will look like, the goal to have most students back in the classroom, but possibly giving some concerned parents the options for their children to learn remotely. Mesa County’s state senator says these cuts to education were unprecedented, and an amount this high has never been seen before.

“Any time you’re cutting money from the district like that, it’s absolutely going to have an impact there’s no question,” said Sen. Ray Scott.

A major impact is D51 not filling job openings.

“Any positions that came open, we’ve really tried not to fill,” Sirko said. “Like for instance in our office we’ve had two retirements. So we won’t fill those positions.”

Senator Scott said knowing how and where CARES Act funding is being spent is crucial as D51 makes budget cuts.

“If the school district is in fact cutting we really need to know where that money goes that the governor got for the k-12 package.”

Sirko says some of those funds could be used to expand tutoring in the fall to help students who fell behind when the semester moved totally online this past spring.

“We may do some after school tutoring, different programs that would help students catch up,” Sirko said. “We have some across the system but it (CARES Act funding) would make it more universal.”

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