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Mancos school officials discuss funding for improvements

The Mancos School District likely will pursue a bond issue next year to fund school improvements campus-wide. At Monday’s school board meeting, members discussed several grants that, if awarded, would help offset costs to the taxpayer for the project.

School staff members, along with Humphries Poly Architects, are working to devise a master plan for the campus, including upgrades to the school buildings, athletic field and parking areas.

The Building Excellent Schools Today (BEST) grant would provide a large portion of the funding for the project. Money from the competitive Colorado Department of Education grant can be used for building schools or upgrading buildings. The district would put up 43 percent of the BEST funding, and CDE would match with the remaining 57 percent.

Superintendent Brian Hanson said securing funding from a bond and the BEST grant would be very important.

“If we don’t get a BEST grant, we have no project,” Hanson said. “But if we don’t get a bond, we don’t have a project.”

The district also will pursue a Great Outdoors Colorado (GOCO) School Yard Initiative grant, which would fund a new playground and outdoor learning area for the elementary school. The grant is up to $110,000, and the district would put up 10 percent of that amount, according to primary Principal Cathy Epps.

Another GOCO grant could be applied to improvements at the athletic field. The Safe Routes to School grant program promotes walking and biking to schools, and could be another funding option for the district.

Consultant Clara Martinez, who is working with the district, recommended the board apply for all the grants at the same time. Grant program administrators like to see that candidates are doing due diligence to find as many funding options as possible.

The board also discussed a measure that will come before the Colorado Association of School Boards at the group’s fall delegates meeting next month. Durango 9-R school district has proposed a school finance resolution that would redistribute money for schools across the state, providing more funding for “at-risk” districts and decreasing the amount of money that wealthier districts get from the cost-of-living factor. Smaller, less wealthy districts such as Mancos would get hundreds of dollars more per student if the resolution were to become legislation.

Board members on Monday decided they needed more time to decide whether or not they would endorse the measure at the upcoming CASB meeting. But members Boe Hawkins and Monty Guiles did not speak in favor of the resolution.

“If you work hard and save money to move to a richer district, that should not be negated by those that don’t,” Guiles said.

Secondary Principal Adam Priestley reported that last year’s ACT scores among Mancos students averaged 21.6, above the state average of 20.6.

The district has started a Future Farmers of America program this year with much student interest, Priestley said. Thirty students are already in the program, and another 20 were interested but could not participate due to scheduling issues, he said. He suggested including an FFA building in the master plan for when the district pursues a bond. The building would be used for storage of machinery and equipment that cannot be stored in a classroom, he said.

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