Jeffco Board of Education to vote on consolidations Nov. 10

The Jefferson County School Board is scheduled to vote Nov. 10 on whether to implement the district’s plan to close 16 elementary schools in the county.

Over the course of two months, parents spoke and asked questions to principals and the district at community meetings, and directly to the board at public comments and hearings. The board, at that time, heard from the district about hiring plans for consolidation, how enrollment will work, and planned enrollment going forward, among other details.

Reasons for closures

The top reason for the closures, reiterated by the district at community meetings and at council, is understaffing and budget cuts at schools that aren’t fully utilized. As Community Superintendent Donetrus Hill explained, the goal is “equitable opportunities for all students, teachers, and families,” and that fewer schools would allow “fewer, more equitable, resource-intensive programs.” .

Some parents, such as Mollie Crampton in a public comment to the Council, argued that the criteria used were not inherently fair.

“The criteria used for this process benefits schools that do better in our choice system, and a choice system benefits privileged parents who can afford the time and transportation needed to bring their children to another school,” a- she declared.

She pointed out that a large portion of the student body at Vivian Elementary, which is slated for closure, are students of color, and that their academic-style program “benefits all students, and the growth shows that we We have a chance to close the achievement gaps, something that the entire state, the entire county is working towards. She believes the closure of Vivian takes away an “incredible opportunity…for some of the most vulnerable children in the district.”

Regarding under-enrollment, Board of Education 2nd Vice President Susan Miller told an Emory Elementary community meeting that the board has spoken to its GIS team to see where children go to place and use exit interviews with parents leaving to reunite. The data. She did not elaborate further on whether that data collection was over or what it might have revealed.

What would the closures look like

Sixteen elementary schools are expected to be closed. Criteria used by the district to decide on these schools included whether enrollment was “fewer than 220 K-2, K-5, K-6 students,” or whether the school was using 45% or less of its capacity and that there was another school less than 3.5 miles away that could absorb these students.

If the groupings mean that a student is farther from their school, there will be reconsiderations for transportation for them. Currently, Jeffco rules allow bus transportation if the walking distance is greater than one mile, and safety considerations such as freeways, railroad crossings, and roads with speed limits greater than 40 miles per hour would also authorize bus transport.

Specific distances and safety considerations for each school can be found in the District’s presentation to the board of directors.

Pupils enrolled in a school that is closing, either by limitation or by choice, are guaranteed a place in the host school.

“They basically have the highest priority other than someone already in school, a sibling of someone in school, or a staff member who works in the school,” said Lisa Relou, district strategy and communications manager. Pupils will also be automatically registered in the host school if parents do nothing, but registration specialists will be available for each family for specific assistance if needed.

Parent concerns

At community meetings, public comments, and public hearings, parents have voiced their concerns about consolidations. Many concerns were school-specific, such as whether certain programs would be transferred and what safety considerations look like in the absorbing school, but others were broader and criticized the process itself. -same.

Lakewood resident Destiny Farr said the criteria used to choose schools closed “didn’t show the big picture.”

“We believe that many important things have been overlooked in these criteria to consider low enrollment, building utilization and financial issues in making this decision, which essentially puts the financial roles of the district and the budget on the backs of parents, staff, students and the community – and especially on already marginalized communities: low-income, special needs and families of color,” Farr said.

More specific information on District criteria can be found on its website.

Class size was another frequently raised concern that the district repeatedly stressed had to meet the agreement reached with the Jefferson County Education Association – which represents educators in the district – at 18 to 24 students in kindergarten through third grade. , and 22 to 30 for fourth to sixth grade.

Whether teachers would stay with these students was less concrete, however, as Emory Elementary Principal Lisa Mahannah said at a community meeting, certified and non-trainee teachers would have to re-interview for a position, but they were guaranteed a place in the district. .

“The district needs to retain its employees, as much as it needs to retain you,” Mahannah said.

Trainee teachers aren’t guaranteed a spot, like Flor Contreras, a 3rd-grade dual-language Spanish program teacher at Emory. She explained that she had become a teacher to be with the Emory children and that it was her first school year. Mahannah replied that if a teacher wanted to stay with the students, they should and she would advocate for that.

Another major concern raised was the fear that programs such as those for children with special needs and people with disabilities, or bilingual programs would not be transferred successfully after consolidation.

Wheat Ridge resident Alanna Ritchie described the pandemic as “brutal” for her disabled son and the center curriculum at Wilmore-Davis Elementary School.

“The big consolidation schools don’t have the center programs or the resources these kids need. The support system for these children already exists in the small schools that already serve them,” Ritchie said, noting that it can take years for children with disabilities to trust and feel safe with the staff and structure that serves them. surround.

The original district recommendation list shows Center programs as transfers to host schools, listing specific programs that can be transferred to different schools.

For Emory Elementary at least, the bilingual program will transfer to its host school, Lasley.

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