School closures and reassignment of students are among the options being considered by a committee that’s studying building use and related issues in the Jefferson County Schools.
The district, facing relatively flat enrollment, population shifts in some neighborhoods and the prospects of budget cuts, is trying to figure out how to save money on its facilities costs.
A 30-member committee has been studying the issue since March and is due to present its final set of options by year’s end, following another round of public hearings in November.
The panel has been weighing academic achievement of individual schools, building conditions, how much capacity is used, choice patterns, enrollment and enrollment trends and operating costs during its deliberations.
According to the committee’s charge, “These options could include but are not limited to repurposing of buildings, school closures, and/or boundary/transportation changes.”
A preliminary set of options released in October includes closing some schools, moving 6th graders into middle schools and getting rid of portable classrooms erected in earlier eras of growth.
The district, the state’s largest, has enrollment of about 84,000, down from nearly 90,000 at the start of the decade. (It had about 75,000 students at the beginning of the 1990s.) The student population is projected to remain flat for several years and then rise slightly through 2020-21.
There are 94 elementary schools, 20 middle schools, 17 high schools and 35 other facilities, including 13 charters, in the district. According to district documents, average capacity use is 91 percent for elementaries, 72 percent for middle schools and 88 percent for high schools, but that varies widely for individual schools.
District projections for enrollment trends show 19 schools stable, 72 schools declining and 40 schools growing.
Beyond building statistics, the district also is looking at its finances.
According to district figures, the board had to cut $11.5 million in total program funding for 2009-10 because of declines in state support and local revenues. Total program funding was $547 million in 2008-09.
The district estimates another $10 million in cuts for the 2010-11 school year, “assuming no further state reductions,” in the words of a district document. (That probably is not a safe assumption, given the condition of the state revenues and the budget.)
Here are some of big-ticket items among the facilities committee’s draft options, which were issued Oct. 10:
- Move O’Connell Middle School 7th and 8th graders to Alameda High School to create a 7-12 campus, sell O’Connell – $869,000 savings.
- Move Arvada Middle School students to North Arvada Middle and sell Arvada Middle – $838,000. Other variations for the Arvada area include other moves for students, possible create of a K-8 dual-language program and closure and sale of Russell Elementary School or Foster Elementary.
- Move Ken Caryl Middle School students to Deer Creek Middle, close and sell Ken Caryl – $825,000 savings.
- A proposal to consolidate the Strober and Vivian elementary schools in Wheat Ridge in a new building at Vivian would save an estimated $397,000 but cost $15 million.
- Eliminating temporary classrooms would save $950,000 but cost $1.9 million.
Potential revenue from building sales is still being estimated.
The following community meetings are scheduled on the issue:
- Nov. 11, Alameda High School, 6-7:30 p.m.
- Nov. 14, Manning School, 9-10:30 a.m.
- Nov. 16, Summit Ridge Middle School, 6-7:30 p.m.
- Nov. 18, Pomona High School, 6-7:30 p.m.
The Facilities Usage Committee is scheduled to make reports to the board of education on Nov. 5 and Jan. 14, 2010.
Do your homework
- Jeffco Facilities Usage Committee webpage, including links to data about district schools
- Text of Aug. 13 draft report
- Spreadsheet of preliminary options
- Committee members
- Summary of comments from September community meetings