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Monitoring election returns on Tuesday night Nov. 5, 2019, are, from left, CMC President and CEO Dr. Carrie Hauser, Salida Mayor P.T. Wood, Salida School District Superintendent David Blackburn, and CMC Vice President and Leadville & Chaffee County Campus Dean Dr. Rachel Pokrandt.

Salida voters passed ballot initiative 5A in Tuesday’s general election, effectively placing the Salida School District annexation into the Colorado Mountain College (CMC) higher education service area.

The shifting of the boundary lines allows CMC to offer higher education in the Salida School District community and the communities around Salida for an affordable cost. Close to 4,700 Salida and Poncha Springs residents weighed in on the 5A Ballot measure with 60.5 percent of those residents in favor of the initiative.

Based on preliminary voting results, it appears that by an overwhelming margin (77 percent), the voters of the Colorado Mountain College tax district supported ballot question 7A. With 5A and 7A passing, the Salida School District will be annexed into the CMC district. As of 9 p.m. election night, CMC has officially expanded its district for the first time in over 35 years.

Carrie Hauser, president and CEO of Colorado Mountain College, said Tuesday evening, “The passage of 7A (CMC district) and 5A (Salida School District) represents a truly historic achievement for rural, mountain communities and for CMC. Not since the Steamboat Springs school district joined Colorado Mountain College in 1982 has a new community been added to the CMC district. We are beyond pleased to welcome Salida School District R32J, which includes both Salida and Poncha Springs, to the CMC family.”

Ballot 5A Results from the office of the Clerk and Recorder Lori Mitchell –Coordinated Election Nov. 5, 2019.

Hauser continued, “We understand the hard work before us, and are eager to roll up our sleeves alongside our partners in Salida and Poncha Springs to deliver the promise of highly affordable, highly relevant higher-education options to the community.”

Rachel Pokrandt, Colorado Mountain College vice president and campus dean for Leadville and Chaffee County said, “We are honored that the communities of Salida and Poncha Springs have voted to join the Colorado Mountain College district. It is impressive for a community to make this type of investment in education for students and to support workforce development. CMC looks forward to meeting and exceeding the expectations of the community.

Pokrandt continued, “The college laid out a strong plan for the first few years of the campus in the feasibility study released in the spring of 2019. This study will form the basis of a three-to-five-year action plan. One of the first steps will be to form a CMC community advisory committee for Salida and Poncha Springs. That group will help inform and communicate the work of the college.”

Friends of Salida Schools 5A Initiative Chair David Armstrong stopped for a picture in the Chaffee County Clerk’s office as results were coming in (Photos by Jan Wondra)

The Salida School District approached CMC in 2018, inquiring how Salida residents could gain access to educational opportunities. These educational opportunities are for more than just high school students but also to career residents seeking retraining and life-long learners. A conversation began in which CMC presented its programs, explaining the difference between being in a CMC District, versus simply being in the CMC service area. Financial projections were prepared, and meetings were held throughout the community. The Salida School Board met and approved language that would be used on the ballot in the Nov. 5 election back in August this year.

Chair of Friends of Salida Schools Ballot 5A Initiative, David Armstrong, who joined reporters at the Chaffee County Clerk and Recorder’s office to await results, was jubilant, and grateful.

“A huge thank you to the community for their continued trust and support for dedication in the Salida School District,” said Armstrong. “This partnership creates a path forward for all students, workforce development and continuing education. We are an educational community.”