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ASD Board of Education candidates tackle staff housing, school safety in candidate forum | #schoolsaftey


Incumbent Katy Frisch responds to a question during an Aspen School District Board of Education candidate forum on Tuesday, Oct. 10, 2023, inside the Aspen District Theater.
Austin Colbert/The Aspen Times

The four candidates running for two at-large seats on the Aspen School District Board of Education discussed how they would address affordable housing and school safety for district employees in a candidate forum on Tuesday night.

Housing for district staff is a top priority for the candidates running for school board as available units are running out, incumbent Katy Frisch said. A key component in recruiting and retaining staff in the school district is ensuring staff has access to adequate affordable housing, which candidates agreed upon.

The district added 18 units to its stock of housing for teachers in 2023 and plans to add seven more in 2024, according to a housing update presented during an Oct. 6 board meeting. But in order to reach the district’s goal of housing 100% of its staff in ASD housing, the board needs to look at potentially building its own units, Frisch said.



“As teachers retire, many of them are retiring out of free-market housing, and if we want to recruit, we need to be able to replace those teachers,” she said. “We need to be able to have our own housing program. We will only do that by the continued support in the community.”

During another candidate forum hosted on Tuesday morning by the Aspen Education Foundation, candidate Cassie Harrelson suggested the reformation of a housing committee within the school board to dedicate more time and resources into tackling the issue she says is harming the recruitment of qualified educators in the district. As a former teacher in the Aspen School District who lived in teacher housing, she said Tuesday evening not only does the district need to grow housing, it also needs to evaluate who is prioritized when assigning district housing.



Challenger Cassie Harrelson responds to a question during an Aspen School District Board of Education candidate forum on Tuesday, Oct. 10, 2023, inside the Aspen District Theater.
Austin Colbert/The Aspen Times
Challenger Sally Goulet responds to a question during an Aspen School District Board of Education candidate forum on Tuesday, Oct. 10, 2023, inside the Aspen District Theater.
Austin Colbert/The Aspen Times
Challenger Sarah Daniels responds to a question during an Aspen School District Board of Education candidate forum on Tuesday, Oct. 10, 2023, inside the Aspen District Theater.
Austin Colbert/The Aspen Times

But housing is not the only thing that will retain staff, Harrelson said.

“We do have educators that have left our system that did have housing … that’s important, but we need to look at a whole system of recruitment, retention, and growth,” she added.

Seven months after consecutive swatting calls were made to the district, candidates largely agreed that the safety of students, teachers, and staff should be a top priority for the school board. But some diverged on how to effectively address the growing threat of gun violence in schools.

In September, the district appointed a new director of safety and security, whose goal is to develop and enforce safety policies and coordinate emergency preparedness. Schools also added additional school resource officers — a move that candidates said was imperative to school safety.

“A lot of parents advocated for (adding a school resource officer),” said Sarah Daniels, who sits on the District Accountability Board. 

Candidate Sally Goulet proposed working with Faculty/Administrator and Emergency Response (FASTER) Colorado — an organization that provides gun-handling training to educators and implements armed security programs in schools — to further protect students in an active shooter scenario. In Tuesday morning’s forum, Frisch said arming teachers was not the answer to safer schools, and she would vote against such an idea as a school board member. 

Challenger Sarah Daniels, left, responds to a question while incumbent Katy Frisch listens during an Aspen School District Board of Education candidate forum on Tuesday, Oct. 10, 2023, inside the Aspen District Theater.
Austin Colbert/The Aspen Times

“I’m not suggesting that all teachers are carrying weapons, but if there is a teacher who feels that they are well-trained in gun safety, they could go through this training,” Goulet said. “And that just adds one more protection on campus.”

Student test scores in the district are lagging behind pre-pandemic levels, mirroring a national trend of learning loss that candidates said should be a priority for the board of education to address. Further implementation of the International Baccalaureate (IB) program for all grade levels is an important step the board should take to return to pre-pandemic learning levels, Daniels said.

“COVID learning loss was quite real, as a parent you see it,” said Daniels, who has two children enrolled in the Aspen School District. 

“The adoption of IB … helps create lifelong learners and by creating lifelong learners you hopefully make up for some of that learning loss,” she added.

Election day is Tuesday, Nov. 7, and ballots will be mailed to registered voters on Oct. 16.





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