New school year brings new classes, construction

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New school year brings new classes, construction

Superintendents look ahead to what this year will offer
La Plata County schools feel the teacher shortage

Rural schools, including those in La Plata County, are beginning to feel the impacts of Colorado’s teacher shortage.
The number of college students graduating with education degrees has been steadily falling over the years, and many small-town schools are trying to become competitive to attract new teachers.
Dan Snowberger, Durango School District 9-R’s superintendent, said his district is not struggling to the degree that others are because Durango is a welcoming place to live.
“While Durango is rural, we are more of a metropolis than our surrounding communities,” he said. “Our biggest challenge is para-professional shortages.”
Snowberger said that becoming competitive in salary and benefits is the key to retaining and attracting teachers.
“We’ve also broken the paradigm of salary in public education by paying our teachers a starting salary of $40,000,” he said.
Ignacio School District was able to fill all of its open positions this year, but it was challenging.
Superintendent Rocco Fuschetto said the district hired a student teacher to fill a spot that otherwise would have gone unfilled.
“Our districts are all in the same boat. I didn’t even have one applicant for a special education position this year,” he said. “We will have a student teacher fill that position that we will hopefully hire permanently.”
Fuschetto said he notices that it is hard to not only fill teacher positions, but also teacher’s aides, bus drivers and school cooks.
Bayfield School District hired its last teacher about a week before classes started, said Superintendent Amy Lyons.
“This year for the first time, we saw more of the impact of the shortage than in previous years,” she said. “We were slow to see impact, but it is a big focus throughout next year.”
mrupani@durangoherald.com

Back-to-school by the numbers

Durango School District 9-RTeachers: 333
Students: 4,800*
Total budget: $51 million
Capital projects: The district has 21 projects planned at its schools throughout the year, including a new elevator at Big Picture High School and asphalt replacement at Miller Middler School.
Project costs: $2 million
Bayfield School District
Teachers: 110
Students: 1,340*
Total budget: N/A
Capital projects: The district is constructing a new intermediate school, and remodeling the elementary school to become a kindergarten through second-grade school.
Project costs: $35.7 million
Ignacio School District 11-JT
Teachers: 68
Students: 800*
Total budget: $12.5 million
Capital projects: N/A
Project costs: N/A
*The number of students will continue to fluctuate until after the first week of classes. These numbers were gathered a week before the start of classes.

New school year brings new classes, construction

Teacher Dale Garland speaks to more than 300 freshmen at Durango High School during the kickoff of a new program called Link Crew. The program connects freshmen with upperclassmen to help the make a smooth transition to high school.
Durango High School students and Link Crew leaders Mia Rodri, 16, and Ben Kelly, 16, participate in the kickoff of Link Crew, which connects freshman with upperclassmen to help them transition into high school.
Dan Snowberger, superintendent of Durango School District 9-R, laughs with Michol Brammer, principal at Animas Valley Elementary School, during the 9-R Academy Awards on Friday at Durango High School. Brammer is dressed as Joe Dirt from the movie “Joe Dirt.”
Marty Zwisler is overseeing the construction of a new playground and basketball courts on the east side of Bayfield Primary School for the Bayfield School District. The school is undergoing a major remodeling project.
Riverview Elementary School second-grade teacher Jaime Papi talks with one of her new students, Megan Burns, 7, on Friday. Students had the chance to meet their teachers before school starts Monday. Megan is the daughter of Jessica and Joe Burns.
Ignacio School District Superintendent Rocco Fuschetto is excited about the 10 new teachers the district hired for the upcoming school year. “They are young and energetic, and we are looking forward to supporting them,” he said.
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