Jeffco Board of Education will move forward with closing Pleasant View Elementary School in Golden next school year.
Other schools that had been considered for closure — Peck Elementary in Arvada, Pennington Elementary in Wheat Ridge, Stober Elementary in Lakewood, and Swanson Elementary in Arvada — will stay open.
“The most difficult decision any school district makes is a school closure,” said board member Ali Lasell. “I’m not looking forward to any closures.”
The five elementary schools in Jefferson County were placed on a possible closure list following the Jan. 26 Board of Education budget cut discussion. The board made decisions on how to move forward at the Feb. 9 meeting, which drew 150 public speakers.
The closure recommendations come after the the board named teacher compensation as its number one priority following the failure of ballot measures 3A/3B on November’s ballot. The proposed closures were part of an effort to save between $20 million and $25 million, with the goal of spending that amount on attracting and retraining high-quality educators. Jeffco teacher salaries average about $10,000 less than their peers in surrounding districts. Closing all five elementary schools would have given the school district an ongoing savings of $3.5 million. Just closing Pleasant View — a school named on the closure list last year also — will save the district $662,742 each year.
The board decision not to move the shift of sixth-graders to middle school next year ahead of schedule, opens up money in the budget to allow some schools to stay open, board member Amanda Stevens said.
The school board voted unanimously to move forward with the closure of Pleasant View Elementary in Golden. Students from Pleasant View will be reallocated to Shelton and Welchester Elementary Schools for the 2017-18 school year. The board approved of spending one-time dollars to place mental health support staff at each absorbing school to help students adjust during the transition year.
The Pleasant View school building on W. 10th Ave. is 67 years old, the oldest of all schools on this year’s closure list. It has a facility condition index rating of 29 percent — a fair rating. This was the third time in six years the school was named for possible closure. Previously, repeated outcry from the community had kept the school open.
“They were loud and clear last year that they didn’t want their school closed,” Lasell said. “I regret to say that their enrollment continues to drop. Just being on a closure list that will happen. So I’m concerned about that.”
Low enrollment and aging building conditions were cited as the main reasons this school specifically was targeted for closure. Enrollment at Pleasant View suffered going into the 2016-17 school year — a total of 222 students enrolled at the beginning of the 2016-17 academic year, the lowest number since 2000.
Because Pleasant View serves such a large percentage of low-income students, it receives federal monies as a Title 1 school, a designation that means many of its students come from low-income households and need additional resources to ensure academic success.
During the 2015-16 school year, 67.2 percent of Pleasant View students were on a free lunch program and 10.5 percent were on a reduced lunch program. Only 55 of the 294 students were not eligible for free or reduced lunch assistance.
There was concern from the board about ensuring that these students still receive the extra programming and funding to make them successful when the filter into new schools.
Jeffco Schools staff assured the board that Welchester Elementary would receive Title 1 status when Pleasant View students transfer in, but Shelton Elementary will not.
The Golden community provides support in several ways to the school. Pleasant View features a miracle shop during the holidays, and just recently launched a Fresh Food Pantry through a partnership with The Action Center of Jefferson County and the Golden Backpack Program — a program that provides a weekend’s worth of food for any child in need that opts in. Through the 21st Century Community Learning Grant, Pleasant View is able to offer free before and after school enrichment clubs. In addition, Golden Tutoring & Enrichment’s MATHrive, an extracurricular academic workshop meant to boost and enrich students’ math skills, is available for free at Pleasant View thanks to a grant from the Golden Schools Foundation.
Welchester Elementary is two-and-a-half miles from Pleasant View and Shelton is three miles.
The next step in the closure process is to freeze enrollment, hold teacher and staff meetings and begin parent meetings. In March, the district will look at teacher assignments and the enrollment process.
This was the second year in a row that Stober Elementary in Lakewood was placed on the closure list. The vote to remove Stober from that list was the closest with the Jeffco Board of Education voting 3-2. Board members Amanda Stevens and Susan Harmon were against.
“Whenever a school is named as a possible campus closure, it’s hard on that community,” Stevens said. “I want to minimize the number of times the community has to do this. I don’t want Stober to have the weather this conversation annually.”
Lakewood officials spoke Feb. 9, asking the board to reconsider the Stober closure.
“Stober is more than a school,” Lakewood City Councilman Charley Able told the board of education. “It’s a gathering place, a community center.”
Lakewood City Councilwoman Ramey Johnson echoed Ables comment about Stober by saying, “it’s far more than a building. It’s really the glue for that community.”
The building that houses Stober is 52 years old. It received a facility condition index of 49 percent, a poor rating. It cost $5.41 per square foot to maintain — the highest of all the school proposed for closure.
Lakewood resident and parent Andrew Arthurs, one of 20 to speak on the school’s behalf, asked the board to consider the community over the building.
“Aging infrastructure is a problem, but it’s not a big enough problem to tear apart the community and close the school,” Arthurs told the board. “The benefits of a thriving community and school far outweigh navigating these budget challenges.”
The board majority agreed and Stober will stay open next school year.