Local News

Boy scout memorial controversy

Memorials for three Woodland Park Boy Scouts killed in a crash last summer are creating a lot of controversy.

The accident happened on June 30 in Wyoming. Paul Kekich, 16, Alex Ragan, 17, and Nick Naples, 17, were on their way home from the Buffalo Bill Cody Scout Camp in Wyoming near Yellowstone National Park. Their boy scout leader Richard Kleiner was driving. He swerved into oncoming traffic and crashed into a motor-home. Kleiner and the three boys were killed, along with a toddler who was riding in the motor home.

According to Wyoming Highway Patrol traffic crash report, Mr. Kleiner's condition is described as fatigued and driver inattention. It is unknown what caused the crash.

Memorials for the boys were made and placed at Woodland Park High School on Aug. 19. The superintendent removed the memorials on Aug. 21 before students arrived for the first day of school. The parents of the victims met with the superintendent the next day. He apologized and put the memorials back up, but moved their location next to an access road that goes to the football field.  The school then told the parents the memorials had to be taken down by Nov 2, because they were only supposed to be temporary, said Cindy Ragan, mother of Alex Ragan.

On Oct. 18 the parents met with the superintendent and the Woodland Park school board president to discuss keeping the memorials up until the end of the school year. The school board agreed to allow the memorials to stay up until graduation.

The parents also requested that a shadowbox made for Paul be hung up on the wall inside the school .

"The baseball team from Denver donated the shadowbox with the intent it be put up in the high school to honor the life of Paul Kekich," said Ragan.

Paul would have been the starting center fielder for the baseball team. He also has a younger brother, Jason, who is a freshman at the high school.

"If a shadowbox can give him (Jason) something to be proud of, to point to it and say that was my brother, then why is that not a good enough reason to put it up?" asked Ragan. Ragan said the school board denied the request because it doesn't allow permanent memorials inside the school. "They're suggesting to us that if someone wants to fund a scholarship, they would consider putting it up on a wall," said Ragan. Ragan says the board also recommended putting the box at Meadow Wood Park, where Paul played baseball. "Items in box are prized possessions of the family of Paul Kekich. To have it in an unattended area just opens up for vandalism and theft it's not acceptable," she said.

The parents have praised the Woodland Park community, including the mayor, city officials, teachers and students for their support through this tragedy, but tell KRDO the school board and superintendent have made their lives difficult.

The school board and the superintendent have not provided KRDO with any comment. 

The parents are organizing a community-wide meeting to inform people of the actions the school board has taken and to ask them to show up at the next board meeting.

The community meeting is Nov. 5 at 6:30 p.m. at the Mountain View United Methodist Church on 1101 Rampart Range Road.

The school board meeting is Nov. 14.

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