Silverton School may be closed, students
December 23, 2001
"Closing down the
school sets in motion closing down the community, and I
don’t think that’s a viable option."
By Jennifer Reeder
Special to the
Declining enrollment at Silverton School has
left the future of the school uncertain.
School officials are considering a number of
options, which include reducing staff to create a "one-room"
high school, developing a public/private boarding school, or
closing the high school and busing students to Durango or
Superintendent Larry Ranney said administrators
are carefully considering all courses of action, and will
choose "the best option that meets the needs of the kids."
"The community and the school district would
like to see the school remain," Ranney said. "We’re looking at
that first and foremost, but not at the cost of the students’
education. But the decision to bus would be a very tough one
if it should come to that," he said.
Silverton School is the town’s only school and
teaches kindergarten to 12th-grade students. It employs five
full-time and four part-time teachers for 62 students. About
25 students attend the high school, Ranney said.
The school receives approximately $11,000 in
funding per student and in the last 15 years has lost five to
eight students each year, Ranney said.
Academic counselor Kay Erickson said students
have voiced concerns about the possibility of being bused to
"The atmosphere here is more like a huge family
than a school," Erickson said. She said students know each
other regardless of age differences, and that at a recent
assembly, she saw younger students run up to high school
students, who playfully swung them around.
Her husband, Town Administrator Dave Erickson,
said closing the school would have a significant economic and
social impact on the community.
"People will be reluctant to move to our
community if they have children," Dave Erickson said. "Closing
down the school sets in motion closing down the community, and
I don’t think that’s a viable option."
He said that as a parent of a 10th-grader, he
would home-school his son before busing him to another
community. He said the school has been "great," but that
declining enrollment has negatively affected the curriculum
and opportunities for the students, such as classes with
students from different grades and the lack of a basketball
Ranney emphasized that closing down the school
is not the preferred option. The administration is taking a
close look at reducing the teaching staff to two or three, who
would teach all subjects in one room daily. Officials are also
looking into the possibility of housing potential boarding
school students in local hotels rather than building dorms on
Ranney said measures are also being taken to
attract new people – and therefore, potential students – to
Ranney said he spoke recently with a
representative from San Juan 2000, a local economic
development group, about applying for grants to research how
to improve the school rather than close it.
Steve Fearn, president of San Juan 2000 and
parent of an 11th-grader, said he is optimistic about the
future of the school and expects to see an increase in the
Fearn said enrollment in the lower grades has
already begun to increase and that the high school isn’t far
"The focus should be on keeping the school’s
infrastructure as it is now and finding a way to pay for it
because we believe it will have enough kids here in three to
five years to pay for itself," Fearn said.
Fearn doesn’t want his son bused over mountain
passes out of Silverton. He said the boarding school option is
a nice idea but would take several years to develop.
Jenny Ader, executive coordinator for Silverton
Mountain Ski Area, said the local population should increase
if the ski area receives a permit that will expand services
and allow for the creation of about 30 jobs.
Ader said the ski area’s Web site had averaged
about 100,000 hits each month since October and that at least
53 percent of the interested people were of "family age."
"If the school will hold out and wait a little
longer, the ski area will attract more families," Ader
The date for a final decision has not been