District says no decisions made on school closures

-A A +A

Committee continues to look at options for saving money

By AJ Vicens

Despite rumors to the contrary, Jeffco Public Schools says no final decisions have been made on possible school closures or changes to high school articulation areas.

The district's Facility Usage Committee — made up of 33 community members, district employees, union representatives and others — has been meeting since March to find ways to save money with more efficient use of district buildings, said district spokeswoman Lynn Setzer.

The committee came up with a final list of options Oct. 26 during a meeting at the Jeffco Public Schools building in Golden.

A final list of options will be presented to the school board Nov. 5. The options are designed to help trim $45 million from the district's budget over the next three years.

The board will then hold a series of public meetings across the county to seek input on any plans or options under consideration.

"They have been looking at every building, every school, trying to come up with a list of ways to save money and, where we can, be more efficient in the ways we use our buildings," Setzer said. "They have come up with a list of options, but every time they meet, the options change."

Setzer said anybody claiming to know how things are going to break down after the board has held its public meetings to discuss various plans is off base.

"Whatever the community thinks they know at this point, it's premature," Setzer said. "It could completely change. The board could throw out every idea and do their own. I'm not saying they'll disregard the committee’s work, but it's too early to say one way or the other."

Setzer said the proposals are "all over the place," including ideas like moving sixth grade to middle schools, closing schools, selling buildings or getting rid of temporary classrooms.

"Anything that we can do to consolidate, be more efficient and save money," Setzer said.

Rumors have circulated that Ken Caryl Middle School will be closed, and that the articulation areas for several South Jeffco high schools could be dramatically realigned. Setzer said that's all possible, but it's equally possible none of that will happen at all.

Setzer confirmed that things would be different if the district had been able to convince voters to approve increased taxes during last November's elections.

"We'd still be looking at how to be more efficient," Setzer said. "The dollar figure would be different in what we need to reduce as we're looking at a steep reduction. So while we'd still be looking at ways to save money, it probably wouldn't have been as dire."

The district's average operating budget approaches $700 million annually.

Information surrounding the committee's work can be found on the school district's home page at www.jeffcopublicschools.org. Under the "Last Opportunity to Tell us Your Thoughts About District Facilities" heading, click on the link for “Facilities Usage Committee.”

South Jeffco residents will get a chance to weigh in on the process at a meeting at 6 p.m. Nov. 16 in the Summit Ridge Middle School auditorium.

Setzer said the process is taking so long because it's complicated.

"This has been a very long, well-thought-out, well-researched process that has been ongoing for eight months," Setzer said. "The more the public knows about it, the better. We don't want anyone to be surprised. This has been a very open process."

Contact AJ Vicens at aj@evergreenco.com, and check www.columbinecourier.com for updates and breaking news.

For more information on the work of the Jeffco Public Schools Facilities Usage Committee, visit www.jeffcopublicschools.org, and click the "Facilities Usage Committee" link. Minutes from previous committee meetings and other materials are available there.