Jeffco Schools is offering a series of community meetings to gather input about a new facilities master plan presented at the April 21 board meeting. The proposed plan, which would be implemented over a five to seven year timeline, calls for reconfiguring a number of current K-6 elementary schools to K-5 and expanding many middle schools from 7-8 to 6-8. Proposals to close and consolidate some schools and add or expand others are also included.
“This is the first step toward trying to more efficiently use our facilities,” Superintendent Dan McMinimee told board members at the April 21 meeting. The goal, he explained, is to take dollars going into inefficient facilities and turn that around so that dollars from efficiency savings can go into classrooms instead.
The capital deficit in Jeffco Schools has doubled in size since 2009 to $500 million, largely due to cuts in state funding during that time. In an ideal year, Jeffco Schools would budget between $65 to $75 million to adequately maintain buildings in the district, but cuts have forced that number down to $18 million per year currently, said Steve Bell, Chief Operations Officer. The budget has been negatively impacted by the state’s use of the “negative factor” to cut school funding since 2009.
Although Jeffco taxpayers saw their tax amounts increase this year, the state is not passing those additional revenues onto Jeffco Schools. Instead, the negative factor will allow the state to use the additional revenue for other parts of the state budget. Jeffco Schools will also not receive any of the money from the recently-passed state marijuana tax, McMinimee said.
“It is time for us to consider ‘making our own future,’” McMinimee told board members. The new facilities master plan aims to promote cost efficiencies by considering five factors: enrollment trends, efficient utilization of buildings, facilities equity between schools and compliance with district educational specifications, deferred maintenance needs, and need for new buildings, additions, renovations, consolidations, closures and ancillary facilities, Bell said.
The plan offered several options, ranging from a plan that would focus largely on grade reconfiguration and boundary changes to plans that rely on a successful bond measure. Among them is a plan to consolidate 10 under-utilized elementary schools into five new buildings, build three replacement schools, two or three new schools, close five schools after consolidation, close two additional schools, move sixth graders from 43 elementary schools to middle schools, conduct major renovations or additions at 26 schools, and reduce the number of modular “temporary” buildings used at district schools from 327 to 161.
“There is a cost to doing nothing that every person in this county needs to consider,” Jeffco Schools Capital Asset Advisory Committee (CAAC) member Dawn Williams told board members at Thursday’s meeting. Fellow member Gordon Callahan added, “If we allow our structures to become old-looking and tired, we’re going to begin to lose. People are going to find places where they can get a beautiful school and that beautiful school will encourage education.”
“Does a beautiful building make better education?” Callahan asked. “No. But the teachers and students are going to feel much better if the school is well-lit, if the carpet is not worn out, if the kitchens are producing the products we need. I think this is the thing we need to look at when we consider a bond issue, which has always been the way to maintain schools.”
“We know how critical this situation is,” CAAC member Phillip Infelise told board members. “We track how construction costs have gone up since the $99 million bond was put forward.
“I think it’s an incredible story that we need to tell: that in an environment where costs were rising 5 to 7 percent per annum, — that would be more than 21 percent over the course of these projects — this staff was able to deliver every single project that it promised to the public in Jefferson County and did it in a timely basis,” Infelise said. “To do it on budget in this environment really means they did it 20 percent under budget.”
Next, the district will collect feedback from parent groups at a series of community forums scheduled around the county. The first meeting was already held at Dakota Ridge High School on Saturday, April 23. Other meetings are scheduled as follows:
- Wednesday, April 27, North Arvada MS Auditorium, 6 – 8 pm
- Wednesday, May 4, Conifer HS Cafeteria, 8 – 10 am
- Wednesday, May 4, Green Mountain HS Auditorium, 5 – 7 pm
- Tuesday, May 31, Ralston Valley HS Auditorium, 6 – 8 pm
- Wednesday, June 1, Pomona HS Library, 6 – 8 pm
- Saturday, June 4, Stevens Elementary Cafetorium, 9 – 11 am
- Saturday, June 4, Arvada West HS Auditorium, 11 am – 1 pm
- Monday, June 6, Golden HS Auditorium, 6 – 8 pm
- Wednesday, June 8, Bear Creek HS Auditorium, 8 – 10 am,
- Wednesday, June 8, Wheat Ridge HS Auditorium, 6 – 8 pm
- Thursday, June 9, Stein at O’Connell Cafeteria, 6 – 8 pm
The district also has an online survey posted on their webpage to gather additional input from the community. The facilities master plan was last updated in January 2011.