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Partial Funding Restored For Outdoor Lab Schools

LAKEWOOD, Colo. (CBS4) - The Jefferson County School Board approved $40 million in budget cuts for the 2011-2012 school but did keep some funding for the Outdoor Lab Program.

Full Story: $40 Million In Cuts Approved

Jefferson County Schools have outdoor labs at Mount Evans and Windy Peak. Students spend five days at the labs learning about science, the environment and astronomy as well as other earth sciences.

David Epp is the principal of the Mount Evans Lab. He said about 7,000 students visit to the two schools every year.

"When they can see a prairie schooner that pioneers took out here, they start to get a real idea of what challenges the pioneers faced and what it meant to settle this land that they now call home," Epp said.

Epp said just attending one of the programs can change the students and students agree, saying it brings text books to life.

JeffCo Outdoor Lab
Jennifer Brice talks with students about lessons learned at Mount Evans Outdoor Lab. (credit: CBS)

"Instead of reading it out of a book," said student Joe Banks, "you get to come and see it in person."

Another student, Dante Lombardi agrees with Banks. "It is the coolest thing ever because you're still learning about school yet you're out in nature."

"It is heartbreaking," he said about the proposed cuts. "you see things that matter to kids, that are well worth the money we spend on them and you see those things being in danger."

The program coast about $1.7 million a year and the district has paid $900,000 in past years. It had considered cutting the funding but restored $450,000 for the coming school year.

That means the community must raise about half a million dollars to keep the labs open but fundraisers say they already have about $100,000 in donations.

The students at the Mount Evans lab will tell you, it is a donation worth making.

"It would make me feel really sad knowing no other could have this experience that I'm having right now," said Lombardi.

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