School transportation issue discussion continues

Photo by Patrick Shea The South Fork Police Department routinely escorts bus drivers through town before and after school in Del Norte, and the Del Norte Police Department patrols bus arrivals and departures at the school.

DEL NORTE— The school board meeting in Del Norte on Tuesday, Feb. 19 included a variety of topics, but one overshadowed all others: transportation. For a small fraction of the meeting, board members discussed school construction progress, scheduled an all-day session to continue overhauling board policy documents and approved a grant for Expelled and At Risk Student Services.
However, the majority of the meeting identified transportation details documented over the past couple of years. Superintendent Chris Burr and Aaron Horrocks (curriculum director & special projects) displayed pictures and slides with Colorado Department of Education statutes. Board members received packets containing correspondence with the Creede School District dating back to 2017.
On Feb. 14, 2019, Creede School District Superintendent Lis Richard sent a letter to Neal Walters, the board members, Valley Publishing and Superintendent Burr. Burr explained that the letter didn’t arrive in time to add the neighboring district’s requests to the agenda for the meeting on Feb. 19. The deadline for posting the agenda for the next meeting on March 28 is not imminent. Burr read parts of the letter and added comments.
The gist of the letter included two explicit requests and a follow-up protocol request.
“We are seeking your authorization to reimburse our families for mileage to provide transportation for their children to Creede School District,” Richards wrote. The second request was more specific. “We are seeking your authorization to pick up and drop off students at the South Fork Town Hall parking lot for activity events only,” the superintendent wrote, and “we respectfully ask that the school board address both of our requests in writing and authorize all members to sign in agreement of the decisions.”
After the transportation pre-sentation, members of the audience appealed for more explanations about the bus issue and asked for permission to receive consent from the board. The parents repeated the same verbal request Creede School District board members Damon Gibbons and Tim Bachicha made in Del Norte during a special meeting on Feb. 4. Then, and again on Feb. 19, Walters explained that the board would consider comments but would make no decisions during the meeting. The board has the discretion to add the topic to the meeting agenda scheduled for March 28.
The public comment period filled the allotted time— emotional stories involving towns throughout the west end of the Valley. One single mother has two daughters going to Creede for school, a sophomore and a senior. She has worked in the Valley for 22 years, seven for a stretch in Del Norte.
Acknowledging that she was asking for a favor, she said, “I moved from working in downtown Dallas to here. We work together in the Valley. It’s totally different here. We work as a whole community.”
The other public comment came from a woman with one Miner and one Tiger in her house. “I would like our schools to get along. It seems like the schools are pitted against each other,” she said. “There are good things about both schools.”
In the meantime, school bells will continue to ring and some students from South Fork will head up the canyon for classes in Creede.
According to Colorado Department of Education Chief Operating Officer, Jennifer Okes, “Whether there is a violation of the inter-district transportation statute or our transportation rules is going to be very fact-specific. We are actively researching this issue.”

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