15,000 Open Seat Inaccuracies

During the mill and bond campaign, there was an individual who chose to repeatedly post information on both social media and in Letters to the Editor that repeated inaccurate information and told people to vote no. The lack of understanding of just how large Jeffco actually is and lack of fiscal knowledge actually ended up hurting more than 86,000 children. Because understanding the numbers is critical and education finance is so complex, we are sharing this information from the Executive Director of Facilities and Construction Management.

http://yourhub.denverpost.com/blog/2016/10/jeffco-public-schools-does-not-have-15000-empty-seats/163232/

Jeffco Schools has repeatedly been recognized for going above and beyond to be transparent. While we are paying our staff up to 19% less than surrounding districts, we should be recognizing and thanking those long time staff members who have remained dedicated to our district. They are highly qualified and don’t deserve to be treated so poorly by these individuals who haven’t even visited more than a school or two to see how things look for different children across our HUGE county!

Jeffco was one of the first school districts to create an online searchable database for the public to use. The district is committing to providing an easy-to-use, clear view of how taxpayer dollars are spent by listing expenditures by fund.

Jeffco’s financial transparency website was recently awarded an “A” by the editors of Sunshine Review. They reviewed more than 6,000 government websites and only 214 were given an “A” rating.

For the 2012 awards, Editors at Sunshine Review analyzed more than 6,000 government websites and graded each on a 10-point transparency checklist. Editors looked at content available on government websites against what should be provided. They sought information on items such as budgets, meetings, lobbying, financial audits, contracts, academic performance, public records and taxes. The winners of the Sunny Award all received an “A” grade during the extensive grading process.

Tim Reed, Executive Director Facilities & Construction Management for Jeffco Public Schools would like to address the following:

The calculation of 15,000 empty seats (per the inaccurate information in the YourHub blog) was simplistic in its approach and did not take into consideration other factors that determine utilization. Using only the schools in the high school articulation areas, all school types are blended resulting in a very different conclusion. A more appropriate method is to develop the seat availability by school type and consider how capacity is calculated. This chart does that:

School by Type 2015-16 Enrollment Enrollment + 5% Available Seats Difference
Elementary (K-6) 37,657 39,540 39,290 (250)
K-8 1,875 1,969 1,849 (120)
Middle (7-8) 10,057 10,560 15,982 5,422
High (9-12) 21,573 22,652 27,299 4,647
High (7-12) 2,013 2,114 2,155 41
Option Schools 3,663 3,846 6,585 2,739
Summary 76,838 80,680 93,160 12,480

These figures are from the annual Summary of Findings which is published by the district. The source material is the same referenced in the blog post.

Column one is the school type; the second column is enrollment for the 2015-16 school year at each type of school. Column three is considered full capacity. Students don’t arrive in classroom-size packages; there may be high or low enrollment per grade that impacts how the classrooms are assigned. For example, there may be 3-1/2 classrooms assigned to a third grade class because the number of third graders don’t exactly equal 4 classrooms. Adding 5% additional capacity allows the principal flexibility in classroom assignments and enrollment distribution. The fourth column is the available seats at facilities in use; those that are closed are not included in the calculations. Column five is the difference between full capacity and available seats at each school type.

The chart shows that elementary schools have a negative capacity while middle schools are significantly under-utilized. The 2016 District Wide Facility Master Plan proposed relocating sixth grade to the middle schools to provide some balance between the two types; creating capacity in elementary schools and better utilization in middle schools. For example, there are 1,000 available seats at Arvada High School. While this does increase seat count at all high schools by 70 students, this is doesn’t tell the whole story. This is a supply and demand issue; seats may be available in one school (Arvada High School) but that doesn’t alleviate demand for seats in another school (for example, Ralston Valley High School).

Option schools appear to be under-utilized. Enrollment at options are not calculated the same as neighborhood schools. Dennison, Jeffco Open, Manning, McLain, and D’Evelyn are “home” schools for their students and are near capacity or over-enrolled. Connections, Long View, Sobesky Academy, Miller Special, and Brady are unique programs that also have a transient enrollment or serve a unique student population. Students attending the Warren Tech programs are counted in their “home” high school population, but many of the Warren Tech programs have waiting lists because there isn’t enough space to accommodate the students who want to take the Career and Technical Education programs offered.

There are available seats, but there are not 15,000 available seats. The 12,500 seats that are available should be taken in context and where there is under-enrollment, how the district’s Master Plan will deal with it.