Del Norte BOE holds firm with Creede

Creede School Board President Damon Gibbons (blue shirt) and Creede BOE Secretary Tim Bachicha (blue jeans, plaid shirt) recite the Pledge of Allegiance to start their visit with the Del Norte School District Board in Del Norte on Monday, Feb. 4. Photo by Patrick Shea

DEL NORTE — Hoping to resolve inter-district transportation issues, two members of the Creede Board of Education attended the Del Norte Board of Education meeting on Monday, Feb. 4. Creede School Board President Damon Gibbons and Secretary Tim Bachicha requested permission from the Del Norte board to allow Creede students from the Del Norte School District to receive reimbursement for travel costs up and down Highway 149.
Del Norte Superintendent Chris Burr sent a letter to the Colorado Department of Education in late January addressing illegal reimbursements from the Creede School District for transporting Del Norte School District students to Creede. Creede officials sent a letter to the Del Norte board during the same time frame, requesting cooperation for resolving the issue.
Gibbons spoke first, thanking the Del Norte board for giving him the opportunity.
“We’re neighbors,” Gibbons said. “We have a lot in common.” Citing athletes who cross district boundaries and other connections, Gibbons added, “We’d like to get through this.”
Gibbons shared the stories of two tragic accidents transporting children to school. Safety was the primary concern from Gibbons and Bachicha, although they acknowledged the legal concern at the core of the discussion.
“Last semester, we provided payments to parents based on mileage to school,” Gibbons explained. “We’re aware that this is wrong and will no longer happen.”
“We appreciate that,” said Del Norte board member Ryan Haynie.
Gibbons said they are notifying parents that those payments are stopping, “and we expect them to be upset. We’ve come to you, the Del Norte School District, to get permission to cross school lines.”
For nearly an hour, the group delved into details regarding legal precedent, logistical issues and the personal connections between students, staff and South Fork. The Creede School District currently has a single bus and would need to purchase another one to begin offering service throughout the district.
“We are not able to do that yet,” Gibbons explained. “But we’ve had discussions to fix it.” Gibbons also noted that Mineral County students upstream from Creede would require extensive driving for very few seats (and insufficient mileage reimbursement for the district).
As the discussion wound down, Del Norte President Neal Walters addressed his board. With multiple options and challenges, Walters said it was a classic “Occam’s Razor” decision tree.
“Sometimes the simplest answer is the best,” Walter said. Addressing Gibbons and Bachicha, “If you follow Colorado Department of Education rules, we need no more discussion. As long as you don’t reimburse,” Walters added.
“You have my word,” Gibbons replied. “We will follow the rules.”
Addressing board members, Walters said, “We need to be united in our point of view so we can give instructions to Superintendent Burr. We need to be singular in what we do to support our superintendent.”
Unanimous, the board decided against granting permission for Del Norte School District students to receive reimbursement for traveling to Creede. They agreed to follow the simple legal parameter.
Parents in Colorado are free to choose any school district to educate their children (in addition to home schooling). But if they opt out of their home district, they forfeit travel reimbursement (unless the home district grants permission).


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