From Wildcats to Tigers

Alayna Jones, Reporter

Many say that 2020 was the worst year of their life. With the pandemic and school closures, it is possible that nothing could have made the year worse. Or could it? For students in District 51, a new decision on the boundary changes for many schools, including the extension of the boundaries for Grand Junction High School (GJHS), has impacted students of every grade .  

On November 16, 2020, Shannon Bingham, who is one of the boundary planners and facilitators, proposed the plan of adding on to the GJHS boundaries. The primary change would be taking a chunk of the Redlands and other areas to expand the high school’s boundaries.  The PowerPoint presentation by Bingham stated that “…boundaries have been unchanged for decades other than when new schools have been activated.” The previous boundaries had been in place for many years and it was time for an update with new housing development in Fruita and the rapid population growth in the Redlands. Macie Allen is a FMHS student who has been impacted by the boundary change because she lives in the Redlands. “Honestly, it’s just dumb.” Allen said “I feel like we weren’t told exactly what was happening and when it would happen, so the change was so much harder to adjust to.”

Both FMHS and GJHS are experiencing a dilemma when it comes to the number of students, so this change could be justifiable. On average, each of Fruita Monument’s graduating classes have about 460 with a stark contrast to Grand Junction High School’s 350 students. The boundary change would help balance out the multitude of students in the Grand Valley, but there are also some negative effects to this change. A substitute teacher and parent of FMHS students said “I know GJHS needs us [the Redlands]. They are low on students and money. They need larger boundaries to help with that.”

One issue with the change is the bussing routes. The district promised families and individuals impacted by the boundary change that the students would be able to continue at the school they are already enrolled in. The district also promised bus routes for both schools for the school year 2021-2022. For example, if students in the Panorama subdivision in the Redlands wish to continue at FMHS and not GJHS (which is where the new boundary dictates), they would be offered the option of having a bus to both schools. In reality, students in these boundaries must get on and get off the bus at Redlands Middle School, which could be almost three miles from some student’s homes. This makes it difficult for these students who must walk the distance to their house. The busses driving the Grandfathered routes (students going to a school not in their boundary because they have an older sibling there. Or they wish to go anyways and not change their educational path)  are forced to carry as many students to reach carrying capacity. Some busses are driving the these routes, which carry students going to a school not in their boundary because they have an older sibling there or wish to continue with their current educational path. These busses are forced to carry as many students as possible, so high school students must fit three to a seat. This poses an issue for students who don’t feel comfortable with such a close proximity to other students.  In the words of the previously mentioned substitute teacher, “…the bus system isn’t working well…we just don’t have enough drivers.” The driver shortage has made it difficult to rely on honest information regarding drop-off and pick-up times and places.

So far, students have been able to adjust pretty quickly to the change, so only time will tell how this will impact students, staff, and the valley in the future.