Parents, staff hear plans, discuss benefits, challenges of combining The Bergens

Deb Hurley Brobst
dbrobst@coloradocommunitymedia.com
Posted 9/16/22

Bergen Meadow Elementary School parents and staff have learned more about plans to close the school and move students in with its sister school, Bergen Valley, and they are generally in favor of the plan.

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Parents, staff hear plans, discuss benefits, challenges of combining The Bergens

Posted

Bergen Meadow Elementary School parents and staff have learned more about plans to close the school and move students in with its sister school, Bergen Valley, and they are generally in favor of the plan.

About a dozen attended a meeting hosted by Jeffco Public Schools officials on Sept. 13 to hear more about the pending closure and the school district’s next steps. They learned that the plan is to expand Bergen Valley, so there is room for up to four classes of each grade level plus room for a preschool. They also learned that parents and staff members will have input into designing the addition.

Officials will work on better access to Bergen Valley and better traffic patterns for parents dropping off and picking up students, especially since four bus routes aren’t operating this school year because of the bus driver shortage.

“We are committed to making sure the opportunity before us is the best it can be for students,” Community Superintendent Michael Freeman said. “We want to capture the history (of Bergen Meadow) and move forward in a way that honors the great work done in this building. In addition, how can we create a more thriving experience? What could it look like to bring the Bergen communities under one roof?”

Bergen Meadow, with students in preschool through second grade, is one of 16 elementary schools the district has recommended closing because of low enrollment. According to the school district, only 44% of the Bergen Meadow building is being used. The school board will vote on Nov. 10 on whether to close the schools.

The plan is for Bergen Meadow to close after the 2023-24 school year. Meanwhile, an addition would be built onto Bergen Valley, which currently has third- through fifth-graders, to accommodate preschool-fifth grade beginning in fall 2024.

Bergen Meadow on Hiwan Drive was built in 1970. It was known as Bergen Elementary School, and it housed all elementary school grades. Bergen Meadow has 189 students this year, and before the pandemic, enrollment was 238 in the 2018-19 school year and 249 in the 2019-20 school year.

Bergen Valley, which is on Sugarbush Drive about 1.7 miles away, was constructed in 1997 on 17.3 acres to provide more space for the overcrowded Bergen Elementary. The building is 42,281 square feet that has a capacity of 336 students.

Bergen Meadow and Bergen Valley — known together as The Bergens — share a principal; buses; a PTA; a digital teacher librarian; art, music and PE teachers; mental health professionals and more.

Combined school, addition

In the combined school, class sizes would continue to be 18 to 24 students in kindergarten through third grade and 22 to 30 students in fourth and fifth grade, which are school district guidelines.

Principal Kristen Hyde said when combined in fall 2024, the school is projected to have about 500 students with a capacity for 640 students. Since the schools are consolidating, only a few positions would be eliminated to reduce redundancies.

Tim Reed, the district’s executive director for facilities and construction, said the process to design the addition would use the same process that, for example, Evergreen Middle School and Parmalee Elementary School used to plan their additions with a Design Advisory Committee creating a vision for what the addition will be. He expected construction to start in late summer 2023 and ready for school to start in August 2024.

The Bergen Valley building, he noted, which is 25 years old, has the larger spaces such as the gymnasium and cafeteria that are more consistent with education specifications and the kind of facilities the district feels are needed for quality education for students.

Parent, staff reaction

Parents and staff said they wanted the combined school to still have the small-school feel, though they were pleased that older students would have more opportunities to work with younger students. They agreed that one school would give the school a better identity in Evergreen since some people don’t realize the connection between Bergen Meadow and Bergen Valley.

They were concerned that Evergreen would lose outdoor athletic fields in a town where outdoor sports space is limited. The teachers asked for storage space, and some parents wanted to ensure that the combined school building would be large enough to accommodate students in the future. They also thought the school would need more than one playground to accommodate different ages.

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