Welcome Back!

We’d like to welcome everyone back to a new school year, and extend a special welcome to our new superintendent, Dr. Jason Glass.

It’s been a while since we’ve updated (summer was busy), but here’s a quick summary of some of the Jeffco Schools news:

Dr. Jason Glass

Jason Glass was approved as Jeffco’s new superintendent by a unanimous vote of the five school board members. Since he started on July 1, he’s been communicating through his Advance Jeffco blog, meeting with the community, and taking time to listen and learn about the many diverse neighborhoods, schools, families, and issues that comprise Jeffco.

We’re very excited to see him so active in the community, and appreciate that he’s taking the time to talk to a diverse assortment of families, students, community groups, and more to get an overall picture of what makes us Jeffco. Please take the time to read his blog and participate in the conversation.

Jeffco School Board Election

Ron Mitchell, Brad Rupert, and Susan Harmon kicked off their respective school board campaigns last week and are currently collecting signatures for the petition to place them on the November ballot. Today is the last day to sign – you have several options for locations and times.

For more information about any of the three, to help with their campaigns, or if you’d like to donate to their campaigns, follow this link: http://keepjeffcomovingforward.com/.

Watch for more posts in the coming weeks about how you can help with their campaigns. We’ll also post a brief summary of what the board members have accomplished since the November 2015 election.

Three Creeks opens, renovations on Rose Stein and Sierra Elementary wrap up

Three Creeks K-8 opened to students for the first time, relieving some of the overcrowding in the northwest Arvada area. The school is currently open to K-6 students and will expand to 7th and 8th graders during the next two years.

In addition, the second phase of renovations for Sierra Elementary, also located in Arvada, and renovations on Rose Stein Elementary in Lakewood also wrapped up. Stein had been closed during renovations and now reopened to PK-6 students, and Sierra Elementary’s renovations added seats for the still-growing Arvada community.

We all have an exciting school year ahead, and will continue to update you in the weeks and months ahead. As always, we are

JeffCo Proud!

Jeffco 3A & 3B Basics: Big Year for Mill & Bond Elections

Continuing our series on why the Jeffco School Board is asking for a mill and bond this year, today’s post focuses on the bigger picture — what other districts are doing to address Colorado’s education funding shortage.

We’ll give you a hint – ballot measures for mill levy overrides and bonds are on the ballot in more than 50 districts around our state. Denver, Aurora and Jeffco combined are seeking over $1.4 billion in bonds alone, and across the state, school funding ballot initiatives top $4 billion.

One big factor: our state’s “negative factor,” which says the state can give schools less funding than actually mandated by Colorado’s school funding formula. The Colorado School Finance Project believes this approach has plummeted Colorado’s per-pupil spending to 40th in the US, when we should be closer to 28th if the negative factor funds were actually given to our school districts. Without this funding, school districts across Colorado struggle to offer competitive salaries and maintain their buildings.

Here in Jeffco, hiring salaries are below the average of the five most comparable nearby districts – sometimes as much as 16% lower. In the last few years, Jeffco’s teacher turnover has steadily risen,  and our current school board has made it clear that they want Jeffco to be the first choice for the best teachers.

This year, our board used one-time dollars to provide modest pay increases for employees. That compensation level can only continue if the mill levy override passes.

The 3A mill dollars will also ensure increased mental health support for schools, increased security, increased Student Based Budgeting funding for all schools, increased support services, and equitable allocations to all charter schools. This ensures Jeffco students will receive the education necessary to prepare them for college and careers. And these dollars will stay in Jeffco.

Jeffco also has significant and growing maintenance and improvement needs at its 155 schools. Should the bond pass, 110 schools will receive much-needed improvements, technology updates, repairs and lab upgrades. Additionally, 45 schools and facilities will receive long-overdue renovations and additions, including new classroom space – something that has not been added since the 2004 bond passed. And, four schools will be replaced and three new elementary schools built.

Some are asking why maintenance on existing schools has been deferred so long. Quite simply, funding has fallen far short of the level it needs to be to offer competitive salaries and maintain schools. Funding has been so inadequate that Jeffco has fallen farther behind our neighboring districts in compensation while also deferring growing maintenance needs in order to protect funds going to classrooms.

Jeffco is not alone in this funding crisis – which is why we see 50 districts around our state asking voters to approve additional resources  Of the seven largest districts in Colorado, six have funding initiatives on the November ballot.

Jeffco, with 86,000 students, is asking for a total of $568 million – and has not had money to spend on new square footage in schools since 2004. That’s 12 years!

Denver, with more than 90,000 students, is asking for $628 million – that’s on top of the nearly $1 billion Denver voters have already approved over the past 8 years.

Cherry Creek has about 55,000 students, and is asking voters to approve $273.9 million in new funding. Cherry Creek voters also approved $150 million four years ago.

Aurora, with about 42,000 students, hopes voters will approve $350 million.

Boulder, with about 31,000 students, has reached funding caps, but can ask voters for an additional $10 million under the newly passed Debt Free Schools Act.

Rounding out the seven largest districts, Adams 12 Five Star, with just under 40,000 students, hopes for an additional $350 million, and Douglas County, with nearly 67,000 students, is still considering options.

For our visual learners, here’s a table comparing the ballot measures of several districts. 2016 Mill Bond Comparisons

2016 Mill Bond Comparisons Graphic1

2016 Mill Bond Comparisons Graphic2
This November, communities across our state will be asked to shore up their local schools to ensure the best education and opportunities for their students.
Poudre School District Board President Cathy Kipp speaks for all these communities when she writes,
The alternative to this plan is not pretty. It involves expensive temporary solutions, which come straight out of the school district’s general fund and negatively impact the education of all our students. This is the way schools are built and maintained in Colorado, by the will of our voters.
Here in Jeffco, voting Yes on 3A/3B will mean safe, well-maintained classrooms and buildings. It will mean ensuring our Jeffco Schools continue to be some of the best in the area. It will mean a better future for our students and our community.

3A3B

To volunteer to help the Yes on 3A/3B campaign, visit Support Jeffco Schools. And please pass along this information so more voters have the facts.

JeffCo Proud!

5.2.16 Jeffco Schools Facilities Master Plan Summary

lakwoodAt the end of April, staff presented an updated facilities master plan to the school board at a study session. First, we want to emphasize that the board has not voted on the plan, nor is it planning to finalize any of the recommendations soon.

What is happening is this: staff are now hosting a series of meetings around the district to explain the reasoning behind the plan, answer questions about details of the plan, and collect feedback from parents. The communications department staff is collecting the feedback and making it available to school board members, staff, and even to the public through links to community meeting feedback and survey feedback received before April 28 on the Districtwide Facilities Master Plan page on the Jeffco Schools website. Comments will continue be posted as they are received throughout the feedback process.

Jeffco Schools has also posted other important links with more information about the plan:

There are also multiple community meetings taking place between now and mid-June:

  • May 4, Conifer High School, 8–10 am
  • May 4, Green Mountain High School, 5-7 pm
  • May 31, Ralston Valley High School, 6-8 pm
  • June 1, Pomona High School, 6-8 pm
  • June 4, Stevens Elementary, 8-10 am
  • June 4, Arvada West High School, 11 am – 1 pm
  • June 6, Golden High School, 6-8 pm
  • June 8, Bear Creek High School, 8-10 am
  • June 8, Wheat Ridge High School, 6-8 pm
  • June 9, Stein at O’Connell, 6-8 pm

If you can’t make any of the meetings (or even if you can, but want to provide additional feedback), you can provide feedback via an online survey that is also posted on the Facilities Master Plan page.

So, you may find yourself asking, why are they doing this now?

There are several reasons:

First, the master plan hasn’t been comprehensively updated since 2011.

Second, you’ll likely remember the debate over how to best fund construction of a new school or schools in northwest Arvada: through a bond issue or through Certificates of Participation (COPs), or by pulling money out of classrooms to fund new construction. This was an issue during the recall election last November. The new board members voted to use COPs to build the K-8 at Candelas and to fund phase II of the Sierra Elementary construction. However, all of them were very clear that they prefer to use bonds to finance capital construction.

With that in mind, the board asked staff to update the master plan and to consider what a potential bond package might look like that also takes into account capital needs throughout the district. The facilities master plan is the result.

Third, we’ve been waiting a long time for the economy to get better and state funding to increase, right? Except that the economy has improved and everyone’s property taxes went up and a new marijuana tax was approved and Jeffco Schools still isn’t going to see much (if any) additional state funding. The “negative factor,” allows the state to keep those additional property and marijuana taxes and allocate it to other parts of the state budget — and in fact, our legislators are not giving those additional revenues to the schools.

Nothing about the current funding patterns seems like it will change anytime soon, so we in Jeffco need to tackle our current capital needs ourselves.

One of the big goals of this plan, besides addressing high-growth areas, school overcrowding, and schools with major maintenance needs like new roofs or HVAC systems, is to reduce the amount Jeffco spends on maintenance overall so that those dollars can be used in the classroom. Updated HVAC and electrical systems some schools will produce thousands of dollars in utility cost savings in the long run. It also means that in some cases, the plan suggests school consolidations or closures, along with the replacement of certain school buildings.

“Why are they closing schools and asking money to build new ones?” is a question we’ve heard frequently. The short answer is that on average, our schools are 45 years old and many have major capital needs. If, however, the school can consolidate two of those aging schools into one new and larger school, they’ll save money in the long run. The equation they use is something similar to the one that all of us use when deciding whether to repair or replace an aging car: at some point it becomes cheaper in the long run to buy a new or newer car than to continue sinking thousands of dollar into a 20-year-old car that’s in the shop every few months. A newer car means few if any repair costs and usually better fuel mileage (or in the case of schools, utility savings) as well.

That said, most of the proposals hinge on a successful bond campaign. Without one, it’s not possible to build a new school or addition necessary to consolidate two other schools. And they want the Jeffco community to have a plan that everyone is reasonably happy with, which is the reason they’re asking for so much community feedback. They want to know which parts of the facilities master plan need to be changed before moving forward.

A few more notes on cost: The plan also suggests a couple of minimal cost options. The first one boils down to what Jeffco is already doing: building a K-8 at Candelas, finishing phase II construction at Sierra Elementary, finishing the Rose Stein construction as planned, and continuing with the district’s deferred maintenance plan overall.

A second minimal cost option is to reconfigure schools in four articulation areas as K-5 elementary schools and 6-8 middle schools. It makes use of available space at the middle school level and creates space in elementary schools that may be lacking it. Note that the proposal is not a district-wide proposal to move to a K-5, 6-8 configuration, but rather one based on student numbers in each articulation area. Even in a proposal that is based on bond money, some elementary schools would be left in a K-6, 7-8 pattern in order to not overcrowd the middle school.

Our friends at Support Jeffco Kids posted a summary that includes summary information about each of the articulation areas, and we encourage you read that post or to take time to look at the links we’ve included above.

District staff plan to take the feedback to the board to consider at the board’s June 16 meeting. They are expected to provide further direction regarding the plan to staff at that time. Staff will then incorporate the direction into a new version of the plan, and we’d expect a vote on the revised version at a future meeting. There will also need to be a vote if the school board decided to put a bond issue on the ballot.

As you can see, everything is in the very early stages of planning. Look at the information or attend a forum and then let the board members know what you think through one of the above channels or by simply writing them at board@jeffco.k12.co.us.

JeffCo Proud!