Jeffco Public Schools proposes to close 16 elementary schools in consolidation

DENVER — Jeffco Public Schools is proposing to close 16 elementary schools and consolidate them with other nearby schools due to declining enrollment in the district, officials say the district school board said Thursday night.

The board will vote on the district’s recommendations Nov. 10 after a series of meetings over the next two months explaining the consolidation plan to families whose children attend the schools and the staff who work there, which will be followed by a period of public comments in late October.

The move would affect about 2,500 students and 422 full-time employees, according to the district. Families could choose to move to the district’s chosen school for consolidation or choose another school.

Staff from the new school will remain there, and staff working in schools that are closing will be able to interview for jobs at the new school and other Jeffco Public Schools schools. The district says it will provide additional training and development opportunities this year to help teachers and other staff bolster their resumes at schools that have been selected for closure.

The district said “in most cases” it should be able to move all students from one school to another, allowing them to stay with their peers.

The schools that would be closed if the district’s proposal is accepted, and the schools they would consolidate with, are as follows:

  • Alameda Emory → Lasley (Emory Center Program → Rose Stein)
  • Arvada: Peck → Secret
  • Arvada: Thomson → Swanson (Thomson Center Program → Hackberry Hill if needed)
  • Arvada West: Campbell → Fremont, Campbell → Vanderhoof (Campbell Center Program → Vanderhoof)
  • Bear Creek: Peiffer → Kendallvue
  • Dakota Ridge: Colorow → Powderhorn
  • Green Mountain: Green Mountain ES → Foothills (Green Mountain Center Program → Belmar)
  • Evergreen: 2024-25 Bergen Meadow K-2 → Bergen Valley will become PK-5
  • Jefferson: Molholm → Lumberg
  • Lakewood: Glennon Heights → Belmar (Glennon Center Program → Hutchinson)
  • Pomona: Parr → Small
  • Standley Lake: Sheridan Green → Ryan
  • Lake Standley: Witt → Lukas
  • Wheat Ridge: Vivian → Stober (Vivian Center Program → Maple Grove)
  • Wheat Ridge: Wilmore Davis → Stevens
  • Wheat Ridge: Kullerstrand → Prospect Valley

The criteria used by the district to make its decisions related to schools that, on August 15, had fewer than 220 K-2, K-5 or K-6 students. Another consideration was if a school was using less than 45% of its capacity and there was a school within 3.5 miles that had the capacity to take students from the school chosen to be closed.

All of the schools on the list of proposed closures met at least one of those criteria, according to the district.

The district says it has the capacity to serve 96,000 students, but had only about 69,000 as of last October. It says consolidation, if it happens as recommended, would move capacity to 89,000 students.

The district says the number of school-aged children in Jefferson County peaked in 2001, and more than a third of the district’s schools were built during the baby boom between 1946 and 1964. The proposed consolidation would shift elementary schools outside the mountain schools an average distance of 1.5 miles from the current 1.3 miles.

“Our focus on extraordinary student experiences and a culture of teaching excellence requires a core staff that cannot be offered without consolidation. The goal is to reduce the number of elementary school programs with more equitable resources,” reads a slide from the district’s presentation to the board, which was delivered Thursday afternoon.

The district launched the Regional Opportunities for Thriving Schools initiative last spring after closing another school due to declining enrollment, and the proposal made Thursday was the result of months of discussion and planning.

Lisa Relou, district chief of strategy and communications, said families in the district will be able to attend school-specific 60-minute meetings between Sept. 6 and Oct. 21 ahead of a public comment period from Sept. 24-27. october.

“We’re going into this process believing no one wants their schools to close, but unfortunately we’re just in a position with our time and our resources where we can’t just keep all the schools open anymore,” Relou said in a statement. interview. “…It’s a giant puzzle, isn’t it, because we have to look at where the school enrollment is – both in the school that has the low registration and where are the places that can accept students as part of their registration.

Relou said the district wanted the proposal unveiled Thursday to be as clear as possible to families about why their schools were chosen for consolidation.

“Ultimately, our goal is to have sustainable elementary schools, and sometimes when we are able to combine two school communities, we are able to really strengthen and sustain a school for that community – hopefully. long term,” she said.

She added that she believes the district has taken the board’s request for a comprehensive consolidation review seriously and has done its part to ensure schools thrive and principals have the support they need. in low-population schools.

She said the district’s recommendation wouldn’t change between Thursday and the Nov. 10 board vote, which she said she couldn’t predict how it would go.

“When we present these recommendations, we will talk a lot about what schools don’t have. What they have are students and families who love them. They have amazing and dedicated staff members who work hard and diligently every day to make the experience the best it can be. And they have leaders who have fought for their schools year after year and are adored by their communities, and it’s going to be incredibly difficult,” Relou said.

“There is absolutely no joy in presenting this recommendation. We need to look at what’s best for students and that’s what’s best for students in the schools that we’re talking about strengthening, and district-wide, because all of the funding that we spend to complete and maintain these small schools open to literally allowing them to survive,” she added, “that pulls from all the other schools in the district and all the other experiences in the district, and we can’t just allow that to continue.

The district said it only spent 2% of the 2018 bond project money on schools recommended for consolidation and that $12.2 million in projects were postponed due to low attendance. enrollment in these schools.

The district estimates it will save $8.5 million to $12 million by consolidating elementary schools and incur one-time costs of $1.9 million to $3.5 million.

As for teachers who will be affected by the consolidation, they are worried about the ramifications, said Dale Munholland, a Pomona High School teacher and vice president of the Jefferson County Education Association.

“We hope that those who are affected by this, that the district will have a plan and that the district will work with us and work with the community to find a place for these people to go,” Munholland said.

The district said it will follow the JCEA and JESPA Framework Agreements to navigate the 2023-2024 school year, and JCEA non-trainee teachers will have one year of employment after the move and will be given priority for interviews during the hiring process.

“The district will provide opportunities for certified personnel to earn endorsements in hard-to-staff areas in the 2022-23 school year at no cost to them, to make them more competitive for positions in the 2023 school year. -24,” the district presentation said. .

The next consolidation target will be K-8 schools. The district is expected to begin the decision process on consolidating these schools in January, with recommendations coming in the fall of 2023.

Nicole Brady and Bayan Wang of Denver7 contributed to this report.

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