For families, our schools become our communities. They are filled with our neighbors, friends, support system, and our beloved children. When a 99 page document outlining potential changes to nearly every school community in the district is presented, showing school closures, grade configuration changes, and boundary changes, parents open their eyes wide and immediately become concerned for their children and the futures they have planned. As it should be!
First, we want to ensure that people understand that this is a DISTRICT staff plan. The Board of Education had nothing to do in preparing this document and has not given feedback. In fact, they saw the presentation for the first time at their Board Meeting on April 21st.
When we have such crucial needs in our school communities, we think it’s quite upsetting that former board members Ken Witt and John Newkirk have given comments to an online Independence Institute blog accusing the current board of spending $800 Million in changes based on the Facility Master Plan – either they don’t understand how this works (still), are clueless that district staff presents items for board review, never paid attention to the presentations given them over the two years they were in office or they just want to sling mud for no cause. Perhaps that pattern was noticed by Jeffco and that’s why they were so overwhelmingly recalled in the November election.
While families are worried about the impacts to their children and need answers to questions, these recalled individuals and their anonymous blogs continue to spread misinformation, attack individuals, and produce hate-filled messages aiming to discredit any group that advocates for our schools, particularly our board and our teachers.
The current board, that was overwhelmingly elected, have made no decisions on the FMP and for the first time in two years, the community is being asked for feedback from a variety of forums to be held across the district. In fact, based on their actions to date, the current board of Ron Mitchell, Ali Lasell, Amanda Stevens, Brad Rupert and Susan Harmon have shown thoughtful consideration to every topic presented to them, had intense discussions on how to best serve students, and shown a willingness to collaborate and listen to everyone in the community.
While one of the recalled board members proposed that abandoned shopping centers and abandoned grocery stores and trailers might be a cheaper way to take care of school facilities, it would be rare to find a parent willing to put their children into such unsafe environments for the majority of their days. It’s simply not conducive to learning and not what the majority of parents want in an educational setting for their children.
The purpose of a Facility Master Plan is to show the needs, issues, concerns, and impacts to our community. The purpose of the forums is to ensure that the community is aware of the issues and can help to provide feedback, add insight for community specific issues, advocate for or against items included in the plan, and to support local control of our Jeffco Schools.
At the Board Meeting on April 21st, one of the highly qualified members of the Capital Asset Advisory Committee noted that the 2012 bond was just to stop the bleeding. He referred to this as a band-aide bond. You may also remember a video we produced in 2012 called Ten Thousand Cracks that showed the extreme facility issues throughout our district. While the district addressed the warm, safe and dry critical issues, the majority of needs have continued to go unaddressed due to school funding. Just as a reminder – watch the video below and note that this was produced FOUR years ago:
Just a few items to note – the median age of our buildings is 45 years. Anyone who spends time in our schools can tell you a long list of needs, some critical.
- The district is committed to protecting the safety and security of our children and a review of the facilities has identified high priority safety and security needs at our schools.
- The average school building in Jefferson County is 45 years old. Many of the heating and cooling systems, boilers, and plumbing are dated and inefficient. (The district could save tens of thousands of dollars on utility bills if we make investments in upgrading to more efficient systems.)
- Every single school in the district has some repair need, with many of them facing critical ones like leaky roofs, faulty wiring, out‐dated fire alarms, and other basic needs. Funding approved by voters in 2012 fixed the most urgent needs on time and within budget, but state cuts has caused a growing repair backlog.
In the last five years, JeffCo Public Schools has received 481 million dollars LESS from the state of Colorado than was supposed to be budgeted. And there are more budget cuts on the way. We need to work together to support our kids and teachers, and provide them with safe, well maintained classrooms and school buildings. We can do it but it does mean we will have tough decisions ahead of us.
Attend a forum!
Here’s the handout – PUBLIC MTG Facilities Master Plan
We Are Jeffco!