Reasons for fewer classes at West Intergenerational

       If it seems as though the West Intergenerational Center's quarterly brochure has been shrinking lately, it's not your imagination.
       Between a School District 11 adult-class cutback and a City of Colorado Springs policy change, the once-fat brochure contains just 12 pages in its recently released Winter/Spring 2008 edition.
       One of the most visible losses is the popular fencing class, which had attracted some 200 students in the previous five years.
       “We're in the midst of two bureaucracies,” lamented E.D. Rucker, director of the center at 25 N. 20th St., when asked about the situation.
       Implemented three years ago, the city policy stopped West and other city community centers from their past practices of contracting with individuals to teach their specialties. Contracts now can only be made with legitimate business entities. Although favorable from a liability standpoint, the policy has the double-whammy of limiting the teaching choices and leading to more expensive contracts than before. As a result, because the center needs to break even on its costs, it often has to charge higher tuition than people can afford, according to Rucker.
       “The policy has really curtailed our ability to be creative with our programs,” he said.
       An example is the fencing class. It had been taught by its originator, Elaine Schoen, and fellow fencing lovers since 2002 - an individual arrangement that continued until last summer because the program was funded by a grant that kept it outside the city policy. But when the grant ran out, West had to look for a fencing-instruction business to keep the class going. This turned out to be cost-prohibitive, Rucker said. Now the center is trying to get a new grant that would allow the old instructors to be used again. In the meantime, “we bought all this equipment ($3,500 worth, using the old grant) and it's just sitting here,” he said.
       Regarding District 11, Rucker referred to a 2003 West brochure and read off a partial list of D-11-sponsored adult courses: computer 1 and 2, ballroom dancing, belly dancing, mime, chess, basic home repairs, jewelry making, scientific logic, managing rental prop, physics and waterwise gardening. By comparison, only three D-11 classes are in the current catalog: Beginning Medi-eval English Swordplay, Spanish 1 and Spanish 2.
       Rosie Gigax, whose D-11 office organizes the adult classes that are offered at community centers, said there is “no special reason” why D-11 has fewer classes at West right now, but she does expect the number to go up a bit in the summer brochure (examples: the two dancing classes). She also noted that some of those on the 2003 list never actually happened because of insuffient signups, and so the strategy now is not to offer classes that aren't likely to attract interest.
       Another point Rucker raised is why District 11 does not advertise its classes more. “It makes no sense,” he said. “They [school district officials] are hollering about revenue and their classes were going great guns.”
       Gigax countered that Rucker's office itself should be publicizing D-11 classes offered at West, and that District 11 does not make a profit on its adult program. In fact, she said, District 11 is one of just a few in the state that even offers such classes.
       (Side note: During the interview, Gigax mentioned that D-11 also offers classes at Coronado High School. Asked how a person outside the school system might find out about these classes, she referred to the back page of the current West Center brochure, where there is a website and a phone number. The website - www.d11.org/communityed - lists all D-11 classes, while a person calling the number (520-2384) could have a flyer sent out with the same information, she said.)
       Despite the situation he pointed out, Rucker said that he and his staff are trying to work within the system as best they can to find popular and affordable offerings. West Center-generated classes in the Winter/Spring brochure include creative writing, line dancing and Tai Chi.

Westside Pioneer article