On Monday night at the Redvale Community Center — a sort of midpoint between Norwood and Naturita and Nucla — the boards of education from Norwood Public Schools and West End Schools District sat down together with a representative from the Colorado Association of School Boards.
Norwood Superintendent Dave Crews said he called the meeting because he wanted to have a conversation with both boards to look ahead to the future of the districts. He said declining enrollment for both schools, along with financial issues and future state cuts to education, were reasons to broach the subject of potentially combining the schools someday.
“How do we work together to provide the best opportunity for our kids?” he asked. “It has to be about kids, that’s why we are here.”
Crews said consolidating the Norwood and West End schools would entail a lot of work — fiscally, with tax structures and deciding on a mascot — and he said he’s not sure that consolidating is the answer to any of the problems the two rural schools face. Still, he thinks it’s worth talking about.
Crews said Monday’s meeting was quite positive, as both boards had the opportunity to share their views. Nothing substantial, he said, was accomplished as far as a timeline is concerned.
“No decisions,” he told The Norwood Post, The Watch’s sister publication, on Tuesday.
However, Crews said both school boards agreed to meet quarterly in the future to have continued discussions about what is happening in their respective communities.
Crews said the West End Schools District representatives mentioned going for a BEST education grant and possibly constructing a new school in the West End in the near future.
Nucla Principal Clint Wytulka confirmed that with The Norwood Post on Wednesday.
“How do we fit in there, if we fit in at all?” Crews asked.
According to Crews, there are other options to put on the table, such as shared distance learning. For example, he said Nucla students could potentially learn from Norwood’s math teacher, Ben Kirk, who is teaching advanced math courses like calculus. That could be done using the high-speed internet available in the region.
Crews said it’s also important to consider sharing other services like mental health providers.
“We are having a conversation, so we aren’t two isolated districts,” Crews said.
He said the meeting did not include a discussion of the schools’ sports programs, something some students and parents are wondering about now. The football and baseball teams from Norwood and Nucla are combined.
Though some are questioning the future of volleyball or basketball, nothing has been discussed or determined for other sports programs at this time.
Wytulka also confirmed he will assume the role of West End Schools District superintendent. He replaces Mike Epright, who will stay on as a consultant. Wytulka said he will remain school principal at Nucla as the school moves forward.
Crews said he’s pleased with the communication between the districts.
“It was positive,” he said. “The Colorado Association of School Boards rep came to facilitate … and said it was really refreshing — two positive groups coming together to share concerns for students and providing what is best for them.”
Some local community members may remember that Ridgway and Ouray schools discussed combining districts after the 2008 recession. The districts ultimately decided against a merger.
Crews said he admitted consolidating can create other problems: Will a teacher lose their job? Will an administrator? Will someone be able to keep their home in their community?
Crews said he admitted that sometimes cultural concerns and other issues could prevent a merger, even if the financial data supports it.