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How Closing Some Schools Affects Plans

Q&A: How Closing Some Elementary Schools Affects Jeffco Builds’ Plans
Posted on 09/14/2022
Regional Opportunities for Thriving Schools

Elementary School Consolidation Saves School Resources

On August 25, Jeffco Public Schools presented a plan to reshape our district’s schools in response to population and demographic changes in our county. This plan, called “Regional Opportunities for Thriving Schools,” calls for consolidating elementary schools to ensure the district can provide extraordinary student experiences in all our schools. We address two frequently asked questions about the plan below.

Why are new schools being built while others are being closed?

Jeffco’s Regional Opportunities for Thriving Schools proposal would close 16 elementary schools in 12 of the district’s articulation areas — neighborhood areas with elementary, middle and high schools. Meanwhile, the district has built two replacement buildings for older elementary schools and will add two completely new elementary school buildings.

It might seem counterintuitive to add and subtract buildings at the same time, but Jefferson County’s student population isn’t changing evenly across the school district. Between 2000 to 2020, the population of school-aged children (5-19) in Jefferson County decreased by 29,918. Despite this overall decline in the number of students in our county, some areas with new development are still growing. The student population in other areas has declined steeply. Across the district, 49 elementary schools have student populations under 250 or are at 60% capacity or less.

The result of consolidating these schools with too many empty seats is that the district will be able to have fewer, more equitably resourced elementary school programs. Two small schools can become one school with the staff, equipment and programs to give top-tier education to all its students.

Why are some schools being closed after construction improvements?

Jefferson County voters approved bonds for the capital improvement plan in 2018. This was designed as a six-year plan that touched every school in every part of our district. Because of the size of the project, work began right away to meet that timeline.

But in the spring of 2020, the pandemic disrupted in-person learning at all our schools. After schools reopened, Colorado saw a decline of 30,000 students. Jeffco saw the largest decline in student population, losing more than 5,000 students between 2019 and 2022. In addition, lower birth rates and rising housing costs that strain young families continue to shift demographics and affect enrollment in Jeffco Public Schools.

Jeffco has spent $16,395,891 — 2% of all 2018 bond-funded projects — in the schools recommended for consolidation. Nobody could have foreseen the pandemic’s impact, but the District is responding by deferring $12.2 million in future projects due to low enrollment and pending consolidation decisions. By consolidating schools, the district is also expected to save between $8.5 to $12 million per year in reduced operating costs.

Jeffco will also explore options to use the closed school facilities in partnership with our community. Although some schools have already received updates, those buildings may continue to be a resource for the district and the community.

Find answers to more questions about the Regional Opportunities for Thriving Schools plan.

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