School District 51: Budget Cuts & Grants

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GRAND JUNCTION, Colo. – Colorado lawmakers are proposing one of the largest budget cuts to K-12 education across the state in an effort to balance the 2020-2021 budget.

Meanwhile, Colorado school districts will receive over $500 million in funding to be used by December.

Nobody knows exactly how much money D51 will be losing from these cuts but it will be significant.

“Nobody’s happy about a reduction but we also understand that everybody is going to share in the impact on our community,” said Diana Sirko, Superintendent of School District 51.

Sirko said the budget cuts did not come as a surprise.

“We already began kind of scaling back our efforts in preparation, but will continue to look and are meeting really a couple times of week, looking throughout our entire budget to say, what are those pieces that are mission critical that must be filled,” said Sirko.

Helping to balance the budget, the Cares Act is scheduled to provide a second wave of funding.

“We should have more information in the near future, so that we can make plans appropriately and make sure that we’re following all legal guidelines,” said Sirko.

District 51 estimates it will receive about $11 million through the cares act. This is the second round of funds for D51, after receiving $3 million during the first round.

“Now, the first Cares Act is a little bit more flexible in how we can utilize that over the course of the next year,” said Sirko.

However, that second wave of funds will only be available through December, meaning the district needs to be strategic with spending.

“We need to be wise in how we look at this so that we don’t get ourselves in a hole for the future,” said Sirko.

“As a parent, we understand that this was not something that anybody anticipated or even expected,” said Jennifer McCurdy, a parent of a D51 student.

McCurdy and her daughter Parker said this pandemic wasn’t easy.

“My grades did tank a lot, I am not an at-home learner, I’m definitely more of a hands-on person and I know a lot of people are like that,” said Parker.

“A lot of guided learning was certainly unable to be done, it was ‘here’s your assignments and there’s a check-in here or there and I feel like it was because the teachers didn’t know what to expect or even anticipate so I certainly don’t blame the teachers,” said McCurdy.

As for the school district, McCurdy would have liked D51 to be more prepared.

“Let’s take this covert experience and really make sure that we’re prepared for something else,” said McCurdy.

According to Sirko, D51’s main focus right now is to consider all of its options.

“Our current hope and goal is to have students in face-to-face instruction at least 50% of the time,” said Sirko, “We may have some different varieties of learning taking place and a lot of blended opportunities taking place.”

Parker, a senior at Grand Junction High School, wasn’t able to attend her graduation ceremony or experience high school classes one last time.

“I’d love to be able to go back and just see my teachers one more time,” said Parker.

She said physically being in school is important for many students.

“For a lot of kids, school is their only hope, they come from broken homes and this is really big for them and if it wasn’t for school, some of them wouldn’t be here,” said Parker.

“There are many students who are suffering the results of this and families who have felt, you know, it’s been a really tough time for them,” said Sirko.

According to Sirko, the academic needs, as well as the mental and physical health needs of students are at the forefront of concern for the district.

“We’ll hope for the best and plan for the worst, just to make sure that we are prepared and ready so that we do not compromise the quality of our students education,” said Sirko.

For the latest updates from School District 51, visit its website.

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