Schools making important decisions about facilities

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By Greg Romberg

In an effort to maximize efficient use of facilities and save money, the Jefferson County Board of Education has convened a 30-member community committee to review its facilities. Forty-five options to adjust how different buildings are used have been developed, and four community meetings are scheduled over the next week to solicit public input on possible changes. The district has estimated that it needs to find $35 million to $40 million in budget savings over the next two years to continue to provide services at current levels and believes that for every million dollars that can be found outside the classroom, up to 20 teaching positions can be retained to keep class sizes as small as possible.

The most controversial things under consideration involve closing and selling schools and moving sixth-graders from elementary schools to middle school.

It’s difficult to close a school, whether because of underutilization or for performance, but we have an obligation to be as efficient with scant resources as we possibly can. Additionally, the message voters sent the board when they turned down a bond issue and mill-levy override last year was that in tough economic times like these, they want to see all steps to save money implemented before asking voters for more.

The question of where to put sixth-graders is more complicated and has policy implications that deserve careful consideration. The academic research makes arguments both for and against having sixth-graders attend middle school. While the vast majority of middle schools in Jefferson County do not have sixth-graders, the three that do, Evergreen, Falcon Ridge and West Jefferson, all perform very well.

The list of options can be found at www.jeffcopublicschools.org/business/facil_plan_design_const/facilities_us

age/documents/2009.10.27%20Draft%20Options.pdf, and people can provide feedback at community meetings at Alameda High School (Nov. 11 from 6 to 7:30 p.m.), Manning School (Nov. 14 from 9 to 10:30 a.m.), Summit Ridge Middle School (Nov. 16 from 6 to 7:30 p.m.) and Pomona High School (Nov. 18 from 6 to 7:30 p.m.). Comments may also be made via phone (303-982-6837), e-mail (facilities@jeffco

.k12.co.us) or letter (Jeffco Communications Services, 1829 Denver West Drive, Golden, CO 80401).

The school district owes its students and taxpayers the most efficient use of its resources to give our kids the best education possible. The public needs to weigh in on these important issues, but when the process is completed,, the Board of Education needs to be willing to make the tough decisions that will ensure the precious resources we use for public education in Jefferson County are used as efficiently as possible.

Greg Romberg is president of Romberg and Associates, a government relations and public affairs firm. He lives in Evergreen with his wife, Laurie, and three daughters.