Mountain News 

White flight from public schools

AVON, Colo. — Rivaled only by Aspen and the Roaring Fork Valley, Vail and the Eagle Valley have a school district with a steadily rising number of students for whom English is a second language.

From the start of Vail in 1962, the resort’s founders didn’t want their kids in the public schools, which then were at least 50 per cent Hispanic. A mine in the area had drawn large numbers of Hispanics from the 1920s through the 1950s from New Mexico and Colorado’s San Luis Valley. But Vail’s founders wanted higher educational standards, so they created a private school.

That private school continues to flourish, joined in the last decade by a now lengthy list of church and private schools. The newest school, a charter elementary school, is planned for Eagle-Vail, a suburban-type neighborhood of 4,000 people located west of Vail, adjacent to Avon. Organizers tell the Vail Daily they were concerned that the neighborhood school, called Meadow Mountain, would close, so they struck out to organize their own school.

But why not send the kids to Avon Elementary School, only a mile or two down the road? It has upwards of 70 to 80 per cent Hispanic students. Seeming to deny ethnic prejudice, founders of the charter school insist their new school will also embrace Hispanic children, and because many of the charter-school founders are businessmen, they say they know how to attract Latino immigrants.

The public perception, however, remains somewhat different. In fact, white flight is now being publicly talked about. Racism seems to be less of a motivator than the fear that English-speaking students are being slowed while waiting for their Spanish-speaking fellow students to arrive at the same page. Public schools in the Eagle Valley are nearly 50 per cent Hispanic, the private schools still very much Anglo-dominated.

The Vail Daily reports a widening gap in test scores between Anglos and Hispanics. The gap in test scores at the third grade between limited-English speakers, mostly Hispanic, and proficient English speakers, mostly Anglo, is 36 per cent. By the 10 th grade level, it has widened to 61 per cent.

A task force of school and other government officials has examined how to make public schools more attractive. A recent discussion delved into Hispanic culture and family values, as well as the correlation between lower incomes and lower scores. The Vail Daily reports no particular conclusions.

Big boxes reviewed

SUMMIT COUNTY, Utah — In both Colorado and Utah, the same question has been asked again and then again: Can a mountain town feel like a mountain town if it has big box retailers?

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