JeffCo School Board Moves Forward With School Closures

Sixteen schools in Jefferson County will close beginning next school year. On Thursday, the JeffCo Public Schools Board voted unanimously to close all schools on a list of recommendations addressing declining enrollment in small neighborhood schools.

After the vote, several parents and residents in the audience said, “Shame.”

Jessica Tribbet has two children who attend Kullerston Elementary School in Wheat Ridge. She knew that the decision was going to fall, but she still hoped to send a third child there. She said she was devastated by the vote.

“This is not the right plan. They didn’t do their job. They let us down,” Tribbet said. “They slaughtered our education system.

She fears that children who were enrolled in schools with 200 students will be forced to go to schools with double or more enrollment. Now she plans to take her children out of the school district.

Parent Val Nosler Beck speaks during the public comment portion of the JeffCo Public Schools Board meeting on Thursday. The board voted to close sixteen elementary schools in the district.

Wheat Ridge City Council member Val Nosler Beck’s family lives in Jefferson County and has attended its schools for generations. Her two daughters are in first and third grade at Wilmore-Davis Elementary. She was saddened that her children were not educated in the same schools as their grandparents before them.

“We were working with the school district and principals. And all that time and hard work has not been reflected in anything that has been offered by the school district,” Nosler Beck said. “And so the school district needs to do a better job of working with the families and communities they impact with huge decisions like this.”

Fifteen of the closures and consolidations will go into effect for the 2023-2024 school year. Bergen Meadow K-2 will close and consolidate with Bergen Valley the following school year.

District recommended closings in August due to dwindling number of school-aged children

Jefferson County’s population has grown by nearly 56,000 over the past 20 years, but the school-age population has shrunk by nearly 30,000.

Jeffco Public Schools Superintendent Tracy Dorland expressed regret for making the recommendations to the room full of concerned families and residents.

“It’s not an easy decision for me to make…and I think, as evidenced by tonight’s meeting, it has a big impact on our school communities,” Dorland said. “I feel a great responsibility to support affected communities in a way that helps them through the transition.”

Dorland, in her first year as superintendent, knew the district was having problems with declining enrollment when she took the job. But, she said she didn’t know how bad it was.

“I was surprised at the level of severity with which this was affecting so many of our little schools,” Dorland said. “And so once we realized that, the board asked for a more holistic approach to school consolidation.”

Affected families watch during the public comment portion of the JeffCo Public Schools Board meeting. The board voted to close sixteen schools in the district on Thursday evening.

The schools chosen for closure were based on certain criteria:

  • Enrollment was expected to be less than 220 in grades K-2, K-5, and K-6.
  • Less than 40% of its space was used.
  • And another school is less than 3.5 miles away and can serve displaced students.

There are currently 157 schools, including charter schools, serving 69,000 students in Colorado’s second-largest school district. It has the capacity to serve 96,000 students.

The Jeffco District said it plans to hire support staff for neighborhoods losing their schools. Families will be connected with an enrollment specialist next month to help parents register their children at another school.

The district will also work with the Jefferson County Education Association and the Jeffco Parent Teachers Association to help find employment for staff affected by the closures.

Jeffco Public Schools isn’t the only district facing closures and consolidations, nor the only district announcing plans Thursday night.

The Denver Public Schools Superintendent announced that the list of schools recommended for closure would be cut in half. Now, 5 elementary and middle schools are on the list to close by the end of the year. The school board will vote on the plan on Nov. 17.

The Aurora School District has already closed eight schools since 2018 and plans to close more.

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