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Dolores school board discusses growing issue of attendance

The Dolores school board looks at a map of flood areas on campus while discussing flood mitigation with Goff Engineering’s Tom Engel. (Screen capture via Zoom)
The district saw multiple students missing more than 20 days of school last school year

At their monthly board meeting on Thursday, the Dolores School District RE-4A board discussed possible solutions to the school’s flooding issues, a board member’s retirement, issues with school property conveyance and the problems with school attendance, among other items during their lengthy meeting.

Board member retirement

Early on in the meeting, Superintendent Reece Blincoe announced board member Doreen Jones’ retirement, adding that she will be available to the board and can provide guidance in certain areas when needed.

“We wish Doreen all the best. We’ll miss her,” Blincoe said.

Jones’ seat will be up for election in November.

Flood mitigation discussion

After the retirement announcement, the board had a detailed discussion with Tom Engel, a civil engineer from Goff Engineering in Durango.

Engel and his team had spent time at the school assessing how to address the flooding issues, drawing up a detailed map to show the board the areas most in need of fixing as well as identifying weak spots and offering potential solutions.

He pointed out areas where the water pools the most and said the debris causing drainage issues was impacting the football field and the back of the buildings.

“It’s really affecting school children,” he said.

Drainage systems weren’t keeping up with snowmelt, and excavation would likely be needed to install an effective system.

He emphasized that a proper drainage system would be vital if the school put in a new track and football field.

School boundaries to be addressed

Goff Engineering Survey Department Manager Brian Boniface spoke about land conveyance issues that had been discovered on tracts two and four of the high school, and another at Teddy Bear Preschool.

Two boundaries need to be addressed, he said, noting that 12 acres being used as school property don’t have records showing they had been transferred to the school.

He advised the board to settle any legal issue because they needed to be resolved before the BEST grant application next year.

CMAS scores

The board also discussed the district’s recent CMAS results, speaking of broad improvements they hope to make and singling out ELA for improvement.


BOCES was a brief topic of discussion as the board again spoke about Montezuma-Cortez’s process of quitting BOCES.

Board member Clay Tallmadge said other school districts that are members of BOCES will have an opportunity to write a letter expressing their dissent for Cortez’s decision to pull out. He said that they would be able to emphasize the financial impact Cortez’s withdrawal would have on BOCES and the remaining BOCES districts.

“The financial impact will be huge,” Tallmadge said.

Attendance report

High School Principal Justin Schmitt gave a presentation to the board regarding attendance, expressing his concern about the rising number of students who miss 20 or more days of classes each school year.

Attendance has been a nationwide problem since the COVID-19 pandemic, and Schmitt said a team at the school was formulating plans and guidelines to improve attendance policies.

Schmitt spoke of the waiting list to get into Dolores schools, saying that it wasn’t fair for a student to be taking a spot in the school and missing 20 days of classes while other students wanted to attend the school.

He proposed that instead of being removed from classes as a punishment for absences, students who miss more than 20% of classes (29 days) should receive no credit on their transcript until the missing days are made up either on Fridays when school isn’t officially in session or in summer school.

He also shared the recommendation that students who chronically missed class may not be allowed to register for school the following year and that new students show a history of good attendance before they register.

Schmitt also said that weekly attendance reports would keep parents up to date.

President Maegan Crowley, in response to a citizen comment about bullying earlier in the evening, asked whether some students who chronically missed school were absent because of bullying.

The board discussed whether or not attendance reports should be analyzed per semester or quarterly, as well as who would be in charge of carrying out the new attendance policies, if approved.

The board agreed to discuss the proposal.

The next Dolores school board meeting is Oct. 12 at 6 p.m.