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District creates Pagosa Springs Middle School

Rather than closing the Pagosa Springs Intermediate School as a budget-cutting measure, the Archuleta School District 50 Joint decided to merge it with the Pagosa Springs Junior High School, and with a unanimous vote at Tuesday’s board meeting, renamed both schools as the Pagosa Springs Middle School.

Previously, the board had considered closing the intermediate school, one of many ideas proposed to save the district money as it attempted to address $1.35 million in cuts for the 2010-2011 fiscal year, with an additional $1 million in cuts the following year.

According to estimates released by the district last January, closing the Intermediate School would have saved around $140,000 a year.

“Physically, we’re keeping it open, so I’m pretty thrilled,” said district Superintendent Mark DeVoti.

In the merger, fifth- and sixth-graders will remain in the Intermediate school building with seventh- and eighth-graders remaining in the junior high facility. In fact, aside from the de facto merger and resulting name change, the only other changes will be to not replace intermediate school principal Lisa Hudson (who resigned earlier this year) with junior high assistant principal Justin Cowan, currently part-time in administration, becoming the full-time vice-principal of the middle school. Finally, fifth- and sixth-graders would be required to take PE and health every day.

“It’s not a huge structural change,” said junior high principal Chris Hinger. “One staff meeting a week, one website ... one name.”

“What this allows us to do is streamline,” DeVoti said, extolling the virtues of merging the two schools.

In fact, according to DeVoti, the name change was merely a means to satisfy Colorado Department of Education requirements. “We need just one name for CDE,” he said.

Retaining the intermediate school building to house fifth- and sixth-graders is certain to please many area parents and students (see related article). In February, the district hosted an open forum to address proposed budget cuts, a meeting well-attended by area residents. By far, the proposed closing of the intermediate school was the most contentious issue at that meeting, with a vast majority of attendees vocally opposed to closing the school.

At Tuesday’s meeting, it was apparent that the board and DeVoti were pleased to have found a solution that would save the district money, while still keeping the intermediate school. After DeVoti and Hinger’s brief explanation, a motion was made to rename the schools, a resolution quickly passed with a unanimous vote.

“I don’t see closing the intermediate school,” DeVoti said.

jim@pagosasun.com