The Fourmile Canyon fire distressed more than just homes and businesses in Gold Hill — the Gold Hill Elementary School is also in jeopardy.
Although the historic two-room schoolhouse did not suffer visible fire damage, its program continuance is at risk due to its traditional local financial support. With the destruction of its homes and businesses, the Gold Hill community’s ability to provide funding for the oldest continuously operating public school in Colorado has been severely diminished.
Gold Hill Elementary School Principal Kelley King and other community members have been working closely with the Boulder Valley School District to organize a temporary relocation of the Gold Hill students to Foothill Elementary School in north Boulder.
King, who has been the principal at Gold Hill Elementary for four years, says there is immense gratitude among Gold Hill residents for familiar routine for their families during the fire crisis.
“They need something normal to hold on to right now, like getting their kids to school and getting them away from the constant drama the fire has caused,” King says.
A welcome orientation was held last week at Foothill Elementary to give Gold Hill students, parents and staff members a tour of the facility and a backpack filled with supplies for each Gold Hill student, donated by Impact on Education, a nonprofit foundation that supports Boulder Valley schools.
“People have really come together as a community and a support team,” King says. “All sorts of organizations have been donating clothes, shoes, school supplies and food.”
All 29 Gold Hill students attended their first day of school at Foothill on Monday, Sept. 13, thanks to the collaboration of the Foothill and Gold Hill staffs, parents and volunteer Impact on Education members.
“The kids thought of it as a field trip,” King says. “There’s so much help, love and support, and the kids are back in school and happy to be there.”
Elon Bar-Evan, a Gold Hill Elementary kindergartener’s parent, says the school’s budget was cut by 2.5 percent this year. The school decided to cut its School Resource Allocation, which covers consumables like paper, pens, cleaning supplies, textbooks, art supplies, learning materials, the school ski program and field trips — elements needed to operate the school.
“The Parent Teacher Organization agreed to take this funding burden on ourselves because we were counting on our Fall Fiesta fundraiser to raise that money, as we have for many years,” Bar- Evan says.
The Gold Hill community donates about $15,000 a year to cover state budget cuts, but because the school now needs to help families rebuild their lives after the fire, Bar-Evan says he believes that number needs to increase to about $35,000 this year.
“Because our typical donation base of Gold Hill and surrounding communities has been so severely impacted, we feel we cannot possibly ask them for assistance at this time,” Bar-Evan says. “We are reaching out to the larger community to help us meet these increased expenses so our children have a smooth re-entry and rebuilding experience.”
Bar-Evan says Impact on Education is accepting all monetary donations to directly support the families and school staff impacted by the fires. Donations are accepted online at www.impactoneducation.org, and 100 percent of the donations will be distributed to the schools to support the families in need of financial support. Donors can also contribute by phone at 303-524-3865, ext. 1, or by mail at Impact on Education, 75 Manhattan Dr., Ste. 205, Boulder, 80303. Bar-Evan urges donors to specify Gold Hill Elementary School in the “Any comments or special instructions” box on the donation form.
King says as a result of the combination of the poor economy, state budget cuts and the fire, the Gold Hill community is seeking all the support it can possibly acquire.
“Our school didn’t burn down, so that’s a huge blessing, but it’s a challenge because our families are distressed and homes have been destroyed,” King explains. “Our capacity to do what we have traditionally done as a community to help the school has diminished, but we’re very blessed that the structure is still standing. There have been many blessings amongst the crisis, and we can’t forget those.”
For more information on how to help support the Gold Hill Elementary School, visit www.impactoneducation.org.