With a record-breaking number of students in attendance across the district, the first day of the Gunnison Watershed school year went off without a hitch, even if things were a little tight in places.
After the school year started on Monday, August 26, superintendent Doug Tredway told the school board, “Enrollment at this time is larger than the RE1J school district has ever had, above 1,900. I can safely say that we’re up over 100 new students, with close to 40 more kindergarteners and over 40 more 12th-graders than we had graduated last year. So we’re seeing the class sizes increase.” The official school enrollment won’t be confirmed until the October count, when districts across the state report enrollment to the Colorado Department of Education for reimbursement. Tredway said student enrollment is up at every site in the Gunnison Watershed school district, with the biggest gain at the Crested Butte Community School (CBCS). CBCS principal Stephanie Niemi said every room in the building but one is being used this year and some classes are bigger than they have been in the past. “The first day was fantastic. Things are really wonderful. We’ve got lots of new kids and new families,” she said. “It’s good to have new kids in the school. The atmosphere is outstanding.” Before the school year started, Niemi had hired a third first grade teacher to accommodate what was expected to be a bigger class. But the class squeezed into two sections, with 24 kids apiece, and a teaching position was shifted to fourth grade. With 65 new students added to the roster just this year, flexibility has helped smooth the transition from the summer into the school year. “That’s a big change from last year,” Niemi said. And where 27 seniors graduated last year, there are 45 currently moving through the 12th grade. Elsewhere in the district, new growth hasn’t forced the district to hire any new teachers either, Tredway said, although classes are reaching their upper allowable limit in places. “We are not exceeding the numbers and we’re within our guidelines. We made some adjustments, but we haven’t really had to add staff,” Tredway told the board. “Even through we’ve risen in numbers, they’ve come in the right places.” He did say, however, that there were some classes with as many as 30 students at the high schools in Crested Butte and Gunnison. “There are some big classes, but we believe, through conversations with administrators in each building, that they’re manageable for each specific classroom setting,” Tredway said.