Jeffco School Board Approves Millions In Spending, Parents Plea For Sustainability Action Plan

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The first Jefferson County School Board meeting of the new year and the second meeting of the newly-elected board on Jan. 18 devoted most of the evening to awards and recognitions, before summarily approving 24 items as part of the consent agenda without discussion.

Items in the consent agenda included approval of 18 acres of land dedicated for unspecified district development in the Candelas neighborhood of Arvada, two charter school renewal contracts, an $8 million contract with Thornton-based Vivacity Tech for 18,000 Chromebooks and Google licenses, more than a million dollars in construction and renovation contracts awarded to Michigan-based construction company Owen-Ames-Kimball, and the acceptance of resignations or terminations of 63 classified staff, twenty licensed staff and seven administrative staff positions, for a total of 90 positions vacated between the end of November 2023 and the beginning of January 2024. 

The only item on the consent agenda addressed during the 65 minute meeting was from Superintendent Tracy Dorland acknowledging School Board Recognition Month, extending her appreciation to the board members for their dedication and service. 

Dorland segwayed into a summarization of her state of the district report earlier in the month to 

“explain some of the nuances of education in funding in Colorado …that most people don’t understand.”

The superintendent differentiated between local and state share of funding, the implications of a voter-approved mill levy override and the ramification of older mill levies not tied to inflation.

“It’s just been a huge challenge for us in Jeffco,” Dorland said. “It feels good to begin to educate our board, our community, our staff and parents about this issue.”

Several parents addressed the board during public comment, calling for the district to address the district’s impact on climate change and to create a comprehensive sustainability plan.

Sara Kuntzler, an Arvada resident and mother of two, pleaded with the board to develop “a strong policy to reduce greenhouse emissions and create a sustainable, environmentally friendly place for our children to learn.” 

Despite being the second largest school district in the state, Jeffco has no sustainability or climate action plan, lagging behind nearly all metro and front range districts.

“This isn’t just Boulder, this is Poudre, Douglas, Colorado Springs, Aurora and Adams 12,” Kuntzler said. Implementing a sustainability plan with efficiency measures from classrooms to school buses would save the district money, contended Kuntzler. 

“Denver Public Schools is already saving five million dollars each year, which more than pays for their sustainability team,” Kuntzler said, citing the more than $5.6 million DPS boasts in annual avoided costs with their Climate Action Plan and sustainability measures.

“The institutions that are teaching our children, preparing them for their future and sending them out into the world have a responsibility to protect that future,” Kuntzler said. “What good is an education in a burning world?” 

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