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Jeffco board gets first look at closures

Jefferson County school district leaders on Thursday began the delicate task of soliciting community input on the closure or consolidation of up to 16 schools while emphasizing no decisions have been made.

Go to list of 16 schools, other proposed changes.
“We are sharing information that is bound to be controversial,” Superintendent Cindy Stevenson told board members before the first public presentation of the district’s preliminary facilities master plan.

“While we know some of these ideas will not be warmly welcomed,” said Stevenson, whose district went through a similar process last year, “we ask that our community be thoughtful.”

The 38-slide presentation elicited gasps and murmurs from some of the dozens still in the audience as the board’s meeting mark passed its fifth hour. Among the key points:

  • 10 schools would be closed and their students moved elsewhere, typically to schools with new additions
  • 6 schools would be closed and their enrollments consolidated into three new schools
  • 2 schools would be replaced with new buildings
  • Grade configurations would change in 11 areas, typically shifting sixth-grade classes to middle schools
  • 5 preschools would be relocated and 4 new preschools would be built

“Could I just make one more comment to the audience? No decisions have been made, this is just the initial presentation,” board member Jane Barnes repeated as details began flashing on a screen.

The plan is based on a facilities assessment, completed in October, of Jeffco’s 174 campuses encompassing 12 million square feet of space spread over 3,101 acres. The state’s largest school district enrolls more than 80,000 students.

That assessment tallied $575 million in current building needs with another $342 million in need projected over the next five years.

Steve Bell, the district’s chief operating officer, said staff then factored in variables such as building capacity and optimal school size to produce $550 million in “recommendations based upon maximizing the utilization of the current physical plant we have.”

“This is a very clinical analysis of … the physical plant we’re managing,” he said. “It is not a decision. We also have to incorporate our instructional goals, along with community input and financial analysis.”

Bell also stressed that “it is not a bond program” though “it is maybe a part of what a bond program may emanate from” should school board members decide to put a bond question to voters in fall 2011 or 2012.

Some board members seemed a bit stunned by the scope of the recommendations and debated how to proceed.

Jane Barnes and Laura Boggs said they wanted to have conversations about the board’s “values” before moving forward.

For example, Barnes said, “Is that our role to provide preschool for children or is it not? We haven’t had that conversation.”

Board President Dave Thomas agreed but added, “I also am kind of concerned about the longer this gets dragged out, the more difficult it’s going to be to make changes this year.”

They eventually settled on a study session next Thursday from 7 p.m. to 9 p.m. at the district’s administrative headquarters in Golden.  A web site soliciting public comment is expected to be up and running next week, and meetings in schools are likely to begin in February.

No decision date was announced on whether the board will seek a bond issue for the facility needs this fall, though districts typically have through August to put a tax question on the ballot.

Staff also presented some changes that can be made without a bond, including closing up to six elementary schools, and asked those decisions be made by April. The six are Campbell, Glennon Heights, Martensen, Pleasant View, Thomson and Zerger. (Listed on slides 35, 36.)

This marks the second straight year that Jeffco board members have mulled school closures, in the wake of enrollment declines and drops in state funding. Last year, a list of 11 schools considered for closure was slowly whittled to four – and board members decided, ultimately, to close only one.

Key points of Jeffco’s Preliminary Facilities Master Plan
Close 10 elementary schools

  • Campbell – Students move to Allendale, with addition
  • Glennon Heights – Students move to Belmar, with addition
  • Kullerstrand – Students move to new Prospect Valley and Pennington elementaries, Kullerstrand repurposed as needed
  • Martensen – Students move to Stevens/Wheat Ridge campus, modified to a K-8
  • Parr – Students move to Little, with addition
  • Pleasant View – Students move to Welchester, with addition
  • Red Rocks – Students move to new elementary in Tamarisk development
  • Stober – Students move to Vivian, with addition
  • Thomson – Students move to North Arvada Middle School, which would become a K-8
  • Zerger – Students move to Lukas, Weber, Warder elementaries

Consolidate 6 elementary schools

  • Colorow and Leawood elementaries would be closed and replaced with a single new elementary school
  • Kendrick Lakes and Patterson elementaries would be replaced with one new elementary school
  • Green Gables and Westgate elementaries would be closed and replaced with one new elementary school

Replace 2 elementary schools

  • Marshdale would be replaced with a new school
  • Prospect Valley would be replaced with a new school

Change grade configurations in 11 areas

  • Sixth-graders would be moved into middle schools in these areas – Alameda, Bear Creek, Chatfield, Dakota Ridge, Golden, Lakewood, Pomona, Wheat Ridge and a district option school
  • K-8s would be split between two sites in Jefferson – Stevens Elementary and Wheat Ridge Middle would share a joint K-8 campus, with preschool through grade 3 in one school and grades 4 and up in the other; Edgewater and Lumberg elementaries would also become a joint K-8 campus, with a similar grade configuration
  • Another K-8 would be blended in Arvada – Thomson Elementary and North Arvada would become a K-8 school, similar to the nearby Arvada K-8 already there

Relocate 5 preschools, build 4 preschools

  • Relocate Columbine Hills, West Jefferson and Parr preschools to the main school buildings; Kendallvue Preschool would move to Westgate and Westridge Preschool would move to Mount Carbon
  • Build new preschools at Stein, Molholm, Patterson and Stony Creek