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BRAC to school

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How can students focus on reading and math when their parents are in combat in Iraq?

It's a common question at Fountain-Fort Carson School District 8, where 60 percent of the students are from military families. And it could loom even larger when the Army's Base Realignment and Closure (BRAC) program brings military families with around 6,000 school-age kids to seven area school districts.

"Our counselors recognize that there are certain situations that our school district deals with, and others don't," says Cheryl Walker, assistant superintendent of Fountain-Fort Carson. "We try to keep school as normal of a place as we can."

Walker says her district does not plan to hire extra counselors to accommodate the 1,700 students estimated to join District 8 with the post's expansion; most will come in August 2007. The district, which has 6,000 students already, counts four schools on post and six off. Several other school districts will also absorb students; by August 2009, Widefield District 3 expects a total of 1,065 more, and Harrison District 2 anticipates 1,002.

District 8 will open another school in Fountain next fall, and Walker says the post will likely need an additional school.

Surprisingly, the biggest challenge facing Fountain-Fort Carson is the timing of the new students' arrival. Since many incoming students will have missed the Oct. 3 "count day," when student numbers are totaled for state funding allocation, the districts could miss out on about $6,000 they would normally receive with each added student.

Walker says area school districts are working at the state level to secure a second count day in February.

"The military told us they would like to try to move everyone who has school-age children in the summer," she says. "But it is just not feasible."

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