Ask why El Paso County is home to so many school districts, and the Colorado Department of Education defers the question to an eminently pleasant elderly man in Parachute, Colo. (pop. 1,006).
Roy Brubacher retired in 1988 as an assistant commissioner with the Department of Education, and when he left, he took with him memories of mass redistricting of state school districts, in the late '50s and early '60s. Turns out that even when called without warning, at home during lunchtime, the 83-year-old man can recall 50-year-old legislative bills more vividly than most of us can recall our middle names.
Generally, people were behind the effort, he says, which even in the '50s was 20 years in the making. They could see how consolidation would ensure the strength of academic programs, and make more activities available to kids.
"The requirement was that there be a county reorganization committee appointed in each county in the state," he says, "and their responsibility was to come up with a reorganization plan for the county. And in El Paso County, uh, there was a lot of opposition to developing such a plan, and it was never brought to a vote of the people."
It wasn't the only county where this was true; Brubacher says numerous smaller districts basically defended their "lifestyle," wanting to keep their community school (often the center of civic life) under more localized control. Apparently, there were also county superintendents, including one in El Paso County, who worried about losing their jobs under a new plan, and who used political sway to fight against redistricting.
So even today, while Denver County is served by a single school district, El Paso County is home to 15, nine of which operate in the greater Colorado Springs area. A bit of information on each of those nine is below. (While enrollment data is exact, according to each district's latest figures, demographic data is rounded to the nearest percentage point.)
One note: Colorado law allows residents to enroll in districts outside of their home district, though caveats are many. For a look at the law, see cde.state.co.us/choice/openenrollment.htm. Otherwise, call the district in which you're interested.
Harrison District 2
Student enrollment: 11,309
40% Hispanic, 31% White, 22% Black, 5% Asian, 2% American Indian
Traditional high schools: Harrison, Sierra
Widefield District 3
Student enrollment: 8,848
59% White, 19% Hispanic, 16% Black, 5% Asian, 1% Native American
Traditional high schools: Mesa Ridge, Widefield
Fountain-Fort Carson District 8
Student enrollment: 6,584
59% White, 18% Black, 18% Hispanic, 3% Asian/Pacific Islander, 2% American Indian/Alaskan Native
Traditional high school: Fountain/FortCarson
Colorado Springs District 11
Student enrollment: 29,820
61% White, 23% Hispanic, 11% Black, 3% Asian, 2% American Indian
Traditional high schools: Coronado, Doherty, Mitchell, Palmer, Wasson
Cheyenne Mountain District 12
Student enrollment: 4,528
81% White, 10% Hispanic, 5% Asian/Pacific Islander, 3% Black, 1% Native American
Traditional high school: Cheyenne Mountain
Manitou Springs District 14
Student enrollment: 1,400
89% White, 5% Hispanic, 2% American Indian/Alaskan Native, 2% Asian/Pacific Islander, 2% Black
Traditional high school: Manitou Springs
Academy District 20
Student enrollment: 22,620
81% White, 9% Hispanic, 5% Asian/Pacific Islander, 4% Black, 1% American Indian
Traditional high schools: Air Academy, Liberty, Pine Creek, Rampart
Lewis-Palmer District 38
Student enrollment: 6,090
87% White; 6% Hispanic; 4% Asian/Pacific Islander; 2% Black; 1% American Indian/Alaskan Native
Traditional high schools: Lewis-Palmer, Palmer Ridge
Falcon District 49
Student enrollment: 14,398
69% White; 16% Hispanic; 9% Black; 5% Asian/Pacific Islander; 1% American Indian/Alaskan Native
Traditional high schools: Falcon, Sand Creek, Vista Ridge