GRAND JUNCTION, Colo. (KREX) — East middle school, a place many students considered a home, is now closed because one demographer predicted it would be too costly to staff it considering the declining number of students attending. Now, the accuracy of those predictions is in question. Paid school demographer Shannon Bingham’s previous outlook differs significantly from the latest projections from state demographers. State demographers do point to a temporary dip in Mesa County’s population, but more importantly, they also predict a rapid rebound to the peak population Mesa County hit in 2020 and even beyond it in just 12 years.

Although the State demographer’s new statistics focus on all of Mesa County, board member Dr. Kari Sholtes pointed out that District 51’s population trends should mirror the county’s specific estimates projecting increasing numbers of school-age students. So, Mesa County and D51’s general population drop should recover in 12 short years meaning the declining demographics cited in consolidating East Middle may not be a factor after all. Instead, some board members say charter and homeschooling have siphoned off thousands of students and public schools should compete to get them back which could increase enrollment and make up financial deficits.

Another shocker during this meeting, a health clinic for GJHS was back on the agenda with a surprising proponent. Will Jones, who previously voted down an on-site Marillac Health Clinic for Grand Junction High School said he’s had a serious change of heart.

“Since that time, I’ve had some time to talk to some different people and think about some things and I wanted to see what we had to do, see what the process was to bring it back to the forefront.”

Will Jones, D51 School Board Member

A request board member Angela Lema and board President Andrea Haitz seemed to adamantly oppose refusing to take a vote on something not even yet scheduled for a vote. Other board members say they’ll take it up again at the next board meeting.

We’ll be there and keep you posted.