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Jeffco school board begins discussion of closing, consolidating schools

No schools specifically have been named yet. The superintendent plans to give recommendations for which schools should close on Aug. 25.

GOLDEN, Colo. — Jeffco Public Schools began conversations around closing and consolidating some of its schools Tuesday night, amid declining enrollment. 

No schools have been named yet, and won't be until late August. 

The district already abruptly closed two elementary schools, Fitzmorris and Allendale in Arvada, at the end of the school year.

“We have let this situation in Jeffco where I don’t believe we have the luxury of time if we do want to avoid emergency closures going forward," Superintendent Tracy Dorland told the school board Tuesday.

A presentation to the school board Tuesday showed the second-largest district in the state had the largest decline in student population, losing more than 5,000 students between 2019 and 2022.

According to the presentation, Jeffco has capacity to serve 39,900 K-5 students in 85 traditional elementary schools. In the 2021-2022 school year, they served 25,600.

Credit: Taylor Schuss
Jeffco Public Schools Superintendent Tracy Dorland speaks at a special meeting of the school board Tuesday night.

There are 49 elementary schools -- more than half of the district's elementary schools -- with fewer than 250 students and/or a building utilization of 60% or less.

"To be a thriving district where all students achieve their biggest dreams, we must build on our many bright spots and confront our challenges through the lens of opportunity," the presentation read.

The timeline for potential school closures and consolidations, according to the presentation, is:

  • A superintendent recommendation will be delivered to the Board on Aug. 25. Schools will be named for consolidation and other related actions will be recommended.
  • Community conversations will be held in September and October.
  • Public hearings on consolidations will take place the week of Oct. 24.
  • A board vote is expected on Nov. 10.

Committees will also be formed to help with the impact the changes may have on students, staff and communities.

Credit: Taylor Schuss

According to a preview of the superintendent's recommendations, schools would be divided into categories. 

One is called "Urgent Priority," which means a school is "unsustainable due to severe under enrollment and, if unaddressed in November 2022, will likely result in an off-cycle closure in Spring 2023."

The other is "High Priority, Runway Partnerships."

That means "it is recommended that two school communities consolidate into one thriving community in the 2023-2024 school year or the 2024-2025 school year. If consolidation does not occur, some schools risk closure in 1-2 years."

Some school board members advocated for "authentic" conversations around feedback, while others worried the process may be moving too fast. 

“We are in a situation where we have urgent priority schools. We have schools with grade levels that are combined and kids not getting what they need in math and our data will show us that," Dorland said. 

In a statement Tuesday, the Jefferson County Education Association said the association "has not yet taken a position on the potential consolidation and closure of schools, but we believe all students deserve access to a high quality education which provides them with opportunities to learn from peers who represent the diversity of the Jeffco community."

"This is not possible in schools where classroom enrollment is so low it does not include a variety of student voices," the statement continued. 

The association also said they believe the district needs to engage in "a true stakeholder process that engages a majority of educators, support professionals, parents, students, and community members to garner authentic feedback before taking any actions that would impact our school community."

RELATED: Colorado appears to be growing, so why are schools closing?

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