How Does Growth Impact Jeffco Schools?

How Does Growth Impact Jeffco Schools?

This was the topic Lakewood City Councilmember Dana Gutwein asked Jeffco Schools Chief Operating Officer Steve Bell to discuss with community members on Saturday, December 2nd.

Mr. Bell began his presentation by making sure everyone in attendance understood the district has posted for public viewing, the Jeffco Schools’ Facilities Master Plan. He referred to the Master Plan throughout his presentation and had a hard copy with him. Here’s a link to that page on the district’s website:

Mr. Bell also expressed his appreciation for the support Lakewood voters had for the 2016 mill/bond. As we all know, 3A and 3B did not pass, but Lakewood was one of the areas where voters supported the initiative.

He went on to explain that even though the 2016 3B (Bond) initiative was for $535 million, the district’s facilities needs exceed $1 billion, to cover all of the work that needs to be done to address those issues where our buildings are in dire need of additions, refurbishing, repairing as well as addressing those areas where the growth requires new schools.

(As a reminder, in the last 13 years, Jeffco voters have only approved one bond issue that provided for new buildings, which included several new school buildings, or additions, which was in 2004 for $323.8 Million In 2012 voters passed 3B for $99 million which was intended to keep our students “warm, safe, and dry”, but provided for no new buildings, additions, or major new construction.)

Reminder – Jeffco completed that work on time and under budget!

Mr. Bell also reminded folks that this summer Jeffco’s district facilities reached a milestone: the mean age of our school buildings is 50 years.   He took this opportunity to underscore that as a “mean” of 50 years old, half (50%) of our school buildings are 50 years in age.

What happens to school buildings that are closed and those school communities:

Sobesky – no longer on market, waiting for board decision on proposed arts performance school where Sobesky would be repurposed to meet the needs of this specialty district school.

Pleasant View – district is currently holding community meetings for input.

Martensen – the new Frank DeAngelis Center for Community Safety.

Zerger – Doral Charter School.

New developments: as an base rule, the district plans 1 new student for every new housing unit, which is why the NW Arvada area has presented such a challenge as new developments such as Leyden Rock and Candelas both planned for thousands of new homes over the next few years also requiring “thousands” of new seats for students in schools that are already at capacity.

Mr. Bell reviewed –

How does the district prioritize bond dollars? Specifically, new schools promised to voters in the area of Coyote Gulch, Tamarisk, and nearby areas in Lakewood, prior to 2004 and since. Priorities change based on aging of buildings in other areas of district, and shift in district student populations.

How does the district plan for student growth? Student growth in neighborhoods where no housing development exists, student growth in those areas where there are large new developments (ranging in the thousands); and how the district deals with choice in and choice out, and the challenges this option presents.

  • The demographics of the District are ever changing causing enrollment trends to vary from year to year.
  • Change factors include many, some of which are age matriculation, birth rates and growth rates, enrollment needs per individual grades (K-12), dynamics of population patterns, including neighborhoods that mature, change in economics, housing availability/prices and new growth areas.

Choice authorized by the State (1994) requires annual adjustment to student seating throughout the District.

Note – be cautious of sources citing 15,000 empty seats in our schools, that is an oversimplified argument intended to mislead the community. See the facts here –

Limited revenue causes a prioritization of resource allocation annually (Summary of Findings.) Jeffco is operating on a Capital Transfer annually of approximately 30% of the recommended amount per industry standards due to low funding.

Jeffco has challenges going forward. Our options are:

  • Boundary changes
  • Limiting choice
  • Grade pattern changes like the 6-8 model
  • Extended days
  • Year round schools
  • Split sessions
  • Consolidations of 2 into 1 or 3 into 2
  • Capital infusion (asking voters again to approve a bond)