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Rico Elementary School to shut down as enrollment falls

District considers November ballot issue on annexation

The Dolores County school board has decided to close Rico Elementary School by June due to a lack of students. It will not reopen for fall 2018.

In a letter to Rico residents, Bruce Hanson, superintendent of School District RE-2J, said it was not financially feasible to keep the school open. Parents have been notified.

“This was a very difficult decision and was made after many months of thoughtful consideration and years of trying to keep the school open,” Hanson stated.

Seven students are enrolled in the Rico Elementary School, down from 16 in 2015.

The Telluride School District R-1 has agreed to accept all students from Rico, Hanson said. Officials are working to provide student transportation, but it’s not yet guaranteed.

Dolores County is discussing the possibility of the Telluride School District annexing the Rico attendance area, which would require approval by voters from both school districts.

“Our plan is to have the annexation question on the November 2018 ballot,” Hanson said.

Community meetings are planned to inform the public of the measure.

Rico, population 262, pays taxes to the school district but is geographically and politically isolated from the Dolores County seat of Dove Creek, population 721.

In 2015, voters in the Dolores School District approved a 3 mill increase to help keep the Rico school open, but enrollment continued to fall.

There are an estimated 40 to 50 school-age children in Rico, but many students commute to Telluride schools because their parents work in the ski town.

The Rico school was known for its project-based curriculum that teaches core standards using more hands-on learning techniques, educational field trips and community participation.