'Cause we like it this way 

Our patchwork school-district setup reveals our, er, frontier spirit

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


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