Gold Camp Elementary is the newest elementary school in District 12. Thanks to a voter-approved bond issue, which authorized the school’s construction, Gold Camp opened its doors during 1997.
The school campus includes 10.4 landscaped acres on the edge of the Stratton Preserve, an upscale community north of Cheyenne Canyon. The school has 43, 830 square feet in a modern building, which includes amenities and features undreamed of when Buena Vista was constructed 88 years earlier.
That’s not surprising, when you compare of the cost of the two facilities. Gold Camp cost $4.4 million, while Buena Vista cost $36,000. Even allowing for inflation, the difference is substantial.
Gold Camp has 20 full-time and 11 part-time teachers, as well one administrator, one counselor, one librarian, and three support staff. It also has a part-time art, music, band, English as a second language and speech teachers, as well as a health aide. The school employs full-time physical and special education teachers, a media specialist, a learning specialist and a Spanish teacher.
With a current enrollment of 350 children, including preschool, total per pupil revenue amounts to $2.5 million, using revenue figures from the Colorado Department of Education. Although District 12 does not break out staff costs on a school-by-school basis, as does District 11, an analysis of publicly available data indicates that Gold Camp’s operating and personnel costs are at most $1.75 million.
Compared to Buena Vista, Gold Camp is the very picture of financial health.
The state’s school accountability reports, which can be found at reportcard.cde.state.co.us/reportcard/CommandHandler.jsp, highlight Gold Camp’s attractions.
The school’s “overall academic performance” was rated “excellent,” the highest of five categories. Ninety percent of students in grades three through six scored “proficient” or “advanced” in reading, compared to 71 percent at Buena Vista.
There is less than 3 percent turnover in the student population and a zero percent turnover rate for teachers during the school year.
Asked if she sees herself as, in effect, the CEO of a small business, Gold Camp principal Kallene Casias doesn’t hesitate with a response.
“Yes, absolutely,” she said. “I have a budget, I have hiring authority, I have a board that I report to through the superintendent. Our product is the education of children.”
And, Casias said, neighborhood demographics make her job much easier.
“Teachers here are able to do instruction,” she said. “Our kids come here fed, they’re from educated families, they know where they’re going to sleep that night. If you take a child without that, who may not have a home, may not have eaten — that child can’t easily learn.”
Although School District 12 is experiencing declining enrollment overall, Gold Camp is growing, partially from out-of-district parents who choose to enroll their children there.
While acknowledging Gold Camp’s enviable position, Casias says that it’s a daily struggle to maintain the school’s excellence.
“It’s like those companies that were dominant in the ’60s, and disappeared in the ’70s,” she said. “It’s easy to say we’re great, we’re done! But we’re never done. We have to keep changing, keep improving.”