As previously announced, the Rocky Ford School District will be submitting a BEST grant application for the 2021/2022 grant cycle. The application window opens on January 6th and closes at 4:00 pm on February 5th. BEST stands for Building Excellent Schools Today and is the most significant source of funding for Colorado school districts that are unable to fund school facility improvement projects through local property tax revenue alone. Communities like Rocky Ford cannot afford the high cost of school facility improvements and, in recognition of this challenge, advocacy groups for public education in Colorado banded together to create the BEST grant program which has been providing financial assistance since 2008.
Regardless of whether Rocky Ford School District ends up constructing new buildings or finds a way to fix up the existing buildings, the BEST grant program will be a major factor with the improvements. While the findings from a third-party building inspection certainly point out the need for major improvements in Rocky Ford, there is clearly a disagreement within the community whether the needs should be addressed with new construction or with repairs to existing facilities. I certainly never intended for the difference of opinion to devolve into heated arguments, accusations, or unwarranted personal insults. If my communication ever insinuated that I did not value the agricultural roots of this community or appeared to be condescending to any person or group of people, I apologize for that. As a superintendent of schools, I feel it is my duty to advocate for the education of the students of Rocky Ford. I know that reliable facilities need to be in place in order to create an optimal learning environment. I would feel derelict in my duties if I did not find a way to address the facility needs for at least the next couple of decades. The school board has been supportive in this task and also feels the burden to discover and implement long-term solutions for the education and safety needs of the district.
This is the reason why the school district is being persistent in seeking assistance through a BEST grant. It is this same perseverance that has brought nine straight years of improvement in the academic performance in Rocky Ford Schools. It is also this perseverance and hard work that has ensured that Rocky Ford students have received more instruction time than their peers in any other area school district during the pandemic. While people may have differing opinions about how to best ensure the ongoing success of the Rocky Ford School District, I would encourage any and all to acknowledge the student-centered approach of the school board in which it is clear that they want what is best for current and future students of Rocky Ford.
In an effort to keep people informed, the district will be sharing articles in the near future about the BEST grant program including the funding sources, the statutory requirements for communities to provide a funding match, how those amounts are calculated, and ultimately how projects are selected from the multitude of applications. In addition to the information about big renovation and new construction projects that receive BEST grant assistance, details about the smaller repair projects will also be shared. The BEST grant program provides assistance for not only large scale projects but also smaller improvements like a roof or heating/air replacement. Details will be provided on what it would look like financially for the school district and the community if small improvement projects were used to fix up the current schools rather than using new construction to replace two buildings. The goal is to provide a safe environment for teachers and students that is conducive to learning for years to come. Because the BEST grant program is the most advantageous avenue to achieve this, we want to make sure everyone has access to information about the program. Please keep looking at the Rocky Ford School District website and Facebook page to see the BEST information when it comes out.