Poudre School District is currently in the Facilities Master Plan planning phase where they determine the next ten years of school development. I’m concerned that — so far — Wellington is not a priority for PSD. And if we cannot reprioritize their thinking, it’ll be 10 years until we get another chance.
Wellington Mayor Jack Brinkhoff and the Town Trustees have had several meetings with PSD Board Members to discuss the issues of schools in Wellington. We have had two community meetings here in Wellington and this past Veterans Day, Mayor Brinkhoff, Trustee Macdonald and myself were able to attend a PSD Board meeting where I made a presentation to their full board. (PSD Board meetings are the same day and time as Wellington Trustee Meetings, however due to Veterans Day this year we moved our meeting to Wednesday, allowing us to attend.)
Mayor Brinkhoff and the Board of Trustees have been trying to educate PSD of Wellington’s rapid growth. This year Colorado state records show that Larimer County is one of the fastest growing in the state. Out of the five fastest-selling communities in the Fort Collins area, two are located in Wellington. 2013 was a good year in Wellington for building permits (146), and 2014 has already surpassed that in November — with 184 building permits so far. 2015 shows no indications of slowing down. Wellington currently has 158 lots available for permits, 1,042 lots platted but awaiting infrastructures, and has recently approved two large acreages for subdivision consideration. Out of 2014’s 184 new households, averaging three people per household, and an age 18 and under population of 36 percent, that comes out to 199 new school-age residents.
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When considering Wellington’s past 10 years of growth, and making predictions for the next 10 years, it becomes obvious that we need to already be moving on new in-town school facilities. PSD says that from start to completion it takes two full years to open a school.
Our middle school capacity is 531 students and currently 461 are enrolled. At 40 new students a year, the middle school will surpass capacity in 14 months. Likewise, Rice Elementary capacity is 540 with current enrollment at 447 and at 40 new students a year it will surpass capacity in 19 months. Eyestone shows best, at 39 months.
This does not address Wellington’s need for a high school. Currently the Wellington area busses between 416 and 615 students to high schools in Fort Collins. Estimated growth puts Wellington at over 1,000 high school students in 10 years. Your Board of Trustees wants to see a high school in Wellington, not in Timnath, not west of the Budweiser plant, not in Fort Collins, but in Wellington. A community needs a high school and a high school needs a community. Wellington needs a Friday night game, a homecoming parade and a school where students can enjoy after-school activities without having to make special transportation considerations.
When people look to buy a home, one of the largest considerations is the quality and availability of schools. We can show that many families leave Wellington as their children get to high school age. They do not wish to see their kids bussed off to school in a distant community. This hurts our community on many levels, not just in valuations of our homes.
Your Board of Trustees has done a lot to get the ball rolling, but with our board meetings being the same as PSD board meetings, we need community help to make headway. If you have an interest in schools and have some time to help, volunteer to a Board of Trustees member or send your name and contact info the to me at Singewtr@co.larimer.co.us.
Wellington really needs to have a citizen group to help plan the future of our schools.
Wellington, Mayor Pro Tem