Manitou School District Faces Big Changes for 2020/2021 School Year

Manitou Springs Elementary School

District Obtains Mega Grant For Emergency Response Work

– Gabriel Paulson

Manitou Springs School District 14 was one of 10 districts in the state selected to receive the 2020 School Access for Emergency Response Grant Program created by Colorado Senate Bill 18-158.

The grant provides funding for interoperable communication hardware, software, equipment maintenance and training to allow for seamless communication between existing school communications and first responder communication systems.

The district will use the $337,726 grant for training programs to teach district-based security personnel and appropriate school personnel the basic procedures for effective communication with first responders. Training and tabletop exercises will be conducted.

The district will also implement an interoperable technology solution to provide a technology update that can be activated or deactivated by the public safety 911 answering point, the network administrator and the school using both the radio system and other communication networks. This will also help the district improve existing radio communication systems.

District 14 has entered into an Interoperable Communication Grant Memorandum of Understanding with Manitou Springs police and fire departments, the Green Mountain Falls/Chipita Park Fire Department and El Paso County Sheriff’s Office. The plan incorporates the National Incident Management System and the Incident Command System, as specified in the School Response Framework.

Big Cuts Brewing

As a result of the significant cuts in education budgets imposed by the 72nd General Assembly prior to the June 15 adjournment, Manitou Springs is preparing to deal with upcoming cuts in its overall operating budget for the 2020/2021 academic year.

As a result, Manitou faces a reduction in the per-pupil funding which the district depends on for overall educational quality. There was a reduction in the state stabilization factor and Manitou is set to receive $1.9 million. The district has multiple pieces of the puzzle to help make up for the shortfall in the state funding, including Measure 3B from 2015 and Measure 4F from 2018, which allows the district to retain $1.8 million in already collected revenue and apply it to operating expenses.

At the end of the 2018/2019 school year, the district had a general fund balance of $4.8 million.

The district is implementing a cost-reduction plan that will use a combination of budget allocation reductions, calendar adjustments and reduction of staff due to attrition. According to the new salary schedule, there was an increase in days for certified staff for the 2020/2021 academic year.

Suzi Thompson, the district’s finance director, also reduced the number of categories dividing classified roles from eight to six to make it easier to identify departments.

The district still plans to reopen all campuses in time for the beginning of the fall term, barring any new developments in the pandemic or state regulations. Once school starts back the district will have new accommodations to help meet COVID-19 requirements.

Two possible models have been discussed as ways of dealing with post-pandemic issues to keep students, staff and the community safe.

The first one, which Superintendent Elizabeth Domangue admits is the hardest to implement, involves bringing 100 percent of students back with social distancing in place. Physical distancing is the most complicated factor, she admits, especially at the elementary level in both the Manitou and Ute Pass schools.

The second one is a hybrid plan that would divide students into two partners that would attend classes in person on some days and online on other days.    “Some of these hybrid models are really difficult for continuity,” Domangue said. “But we will use the model that is the safest and most appropriate at the time.”

Student-athletes have been allowed to return to campus for training, provided requirements of the Centers For Disease Control and state recommendations are being met, such as keeping all equipment sanitized and screening students prior to entering the facility to check for symptoms.

The district has also implemented a resolution of Diversity, Equity and Inclusion in Education, affirming the district’s commitment to inclusion and diversity with students, staff, families and the community.

Manitou Event Changes

In other Manitou developments regarding special events, the  98th Broadmoor Pikes Peak International Hill Climb will continue Aug. 30 as scheduled, but without spectators, per continued COVID-19 guidelines. All camping permits, as well as all practice and race day ticket purchases, will be fully refunded.

In conjunction with the event, Fan Fest, the kick-off event held in Colorado Springs on Aug. 28 has also been canceled.

The Pikes Peak Marathon, scheduled for Aug. 23 will continue, but the Pikes Peak Ascent on Aug. 22 was canceled in May. The fanfare surrounding the event will be significantly muted and all lead-up and post-race events have been canceled or reduced due to limitations on social gatherings. Social distancing requirements will be enforced at the start and finish of the race and some aid stations may be eliminated. Runners will start in smaller waves and are required to wear face masks before the race, after the race and when picking up their packets