12 Apr Local School Districts Continue Cooperation Talks

April 12, 2010

By: John Norton
Source: The Pueblo Chieftain

The boards of Pueblo’s two school districts continued to discuss ideas for money-saving cooperation at a joint meeting Friday.

Gathering in a meeting room at Colorado State University-Pueblo, officials from the two school districts discussed long-term projects and updated each other on other upcoming moves in their respective districts.

Pueblo City Schools and Pueblo County School District 70 both are wrestling with major budget cuts this year, but have been talking cooperation for some time. More than a year ago, the city district took over the county district’s printing work, bringing in additional revenue for itself and saving District 70 money.

Part of Friday’s discussion centered around transportation. District 70 officials are negotiating with First Student, a busing company that could take over its transportation needs. First Student has made a presentation to the city district, too, and Kevin Romero, chief officer for student support, said the proposal was being analyzed.

However, Pueblo City Schools board members asked if it is possible for District 70 to adjust a proposed three-year contract with First Student, so that the city school buses could be used in some cases.

District 70 Superintendent Dan Lere said that could be a possibility.

Another area of cooperation that’s being worked on is special education. The two districts may be able to combine their departments and need to make an application to the state by Nov. 1, but after that it could take at least a year to accomplish it.

In the meantime, Pueblo City Schools Superintendent Kathy West said the two districts might be able to work together to share specialists who are hard to recruit.

“We could combine positions we both have a difficult time staffing,” West said, adding that it will take time to adjust pay scales and record-keeping processes.

Related to that, the Pueblo City Schools board discussed more efficient billing of Medicaid for some special education students. State law allows school d istricts that qualify to charge for counseling. The district also could combine that process.

Lere said a previous meeting on combining maintenance and operations was not productive, but some new ideas have come up since then, including combining warehousing, maintenance and delivery to schools.

Lere pointed out that District 70 trucks drive through the city district to make deliveries, and a common warehouse would be more efficient.

The board members also discussed distance learning labs that could provide low-demand but high-level courses to larger numbers of students, such as foreign languages.

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