SHIPROCK — Career Prep High School got its second chance.

The Central Consolidated School District announced that it will not close the alternative high school, which has served hundreds of students since it first opened in 1995.

Students, parents and staff cheered alongside community members at the announcement, which came during a special district school board meeting Thursday evening.

"A big weight has just been lifted," said Career Prep junior Kelsey Belin, 16. "They'd never given us a voice before. Everyone was sad. Everyone was mad."

More than 100 students pleaded and demanded that the district not close the school on Wednesday night, before the district school board met Thursday.

Harley Hoskie, 19, a junior at the school, was one of the students who cried Wednesday in front of district officials. On Thursday, he was all smiles after learning that his school would not close.

"The school changed me a lot," said Hoskie, who drives an hour each day to get to the school.

During his time at the two high schools he attended previously, Hoskie said he attempted to commit suicide twice because he was bullied and felt so miserable.

"When I first came here, I was really anti-social, my hair was in my face, and I always wore black," Hoskie said. "Now, I wear my hair out of my face, and I hold my head high."

The district announced on Monday that it planned to close the school to save the district $1.7 million. The district is facing a $4 million shortfall and wants to cut $5.2 million from the district's budget for next school year.

CCSD learned Thursday of an additional $3 million in federal funding the school district is expected to receive in the coming school year, according to district spokesman James Preminger.

A portion of that money will go toward keeping Career Prep open, Preminger said. The federal money is not expected to change the outcome of the 43 employees already laid off from the district.

After finding out about the additional funds, the district decided not to present its budget to the school board nor to the audience Thursday evening. This was announced after a more than hour-long executive session, which upset much of the audience. The district is expected to present its budget at 6:30 p.m. Tuesday in the Shiprock board room.

"The community isn't as significant a stakeholder as it should be," said Duane "Chili" Yazzie, president of the Shiprock Chapter. "The district is acting as though they know what is best for us. We have yet to see the day when the chapter sits across from the district as equals."

Yazzie, who was cut off during his public comment period because of timing, invited the district to meet with the chapter at 6 p.m. May 17 at the chapter house. Several district officials seemed to accept the invitation.

Some people in the audience, though, did not get the answers they wanted.

Several students, parents and staff demanded that district officials answer questions about why they were not cutting funds or positions in administration and why the district is facing a shortfall in the first place.

"I was infuriated to see that you were even considering closing that school. How dare you?" said Susan Guillory, a former district teacher.

Still, many were grateful that the district decided not to close Career Prep High School, though they questioned if the school was still in jeopardy of closing in the future.

Career Prep Principal Joyce Rock said that she was going to network more with the community to ensure that the school is less vulnerable.

"I think these kids made a difference this week," Rock said. "It's really difficult to make a decision when you have kids standing up passionately."

 

Jenny Kane can be reached at jkane@daily-times.com; 505-564-4636. Follow her on Twitter @Jenny_Kane.