Kullerstrand, Vivian and Wilmore Davis are among 16 Jefferson County elementary schools that are recommended for closure next year, according to a report from the Jeffco Public Schools Superintendent Tracy Dorland at a special meeting of the Board of Education, Aug. 25. The board will vote on the proposed recommendation on Nov. 10, following a series of community meetings continuing through the end of this month.
The Neighborhood Gazette invited the community to submit letters on the matter, and those received are printed here.
School-based community engagement meetings on possible transitions began early in September. Public comment meetings are scheduled for Oct. 24 through 27; those for the Wheat Ridge articulation area school closures will take place Oct. 24 at Wheat Ridge High School, 9505 W. 32nd Ave., at the following times:
• 5 to 6 p.m., for Vivian
• 6:30 to 7:30 p.m., for Willmore Davis
• 7:30 to 8:39 p.m., for Kullerstrand
As part of the proposal, Vivian would be consolidated with Stober; Willmore Davis with Stevens; and Kullerstrand with Prospect Valley.
On Nov. 10, the board will vote to accept or reject the proposed closures and recommendations. If accepted, the board will issue a Request for Proposals for community conversations on what to do with the closing schools. Also, the report states no further closures of elementary schools are expected, but that in January the board will look at the consolidation of secondary schools with the aim of making a recommendation for closures – including kindergarten through eighth grade schools – next fall.
For more information, go to the Jeffco Schools website: https://www.jeffcopublicschools.org/about/regional_opportunities_for_thriving_schools
Dear Neighborhood Gazette,
I had the pleasure to grow up in the Wheat Ridge community, and attend great schools like Kullerstrand, Everett and I am a proud graduate of Wheat Ridge High School … GO FARMERS! My long history in Wheat Ridge, and love of this community is why my wife Sara, a former Jeffco School Teacher, and I decided to open our business and raise our family here. My kids both attend Kullerstrand Elementary School, which along with Wilmore-Davis and Vivian have been slated by Jeffco Public Schools for closure at the end of this school year. The Jeffco Superintendent and her staff made the recommendation to close 16 elementary schools across the district, citing low birth numbers and a declining enrollment. As a community, we have questions and concerns about their data, transparency, and methodology used to get to this point.
The data Jeffco is using to make these decisions, is at best inaccurate, and at worst completely false. In a school board meeting on Sept. 7, a Jeffco staff member was presenting to the board and cited a slide of growth numbers for the Wheat Ridge articulation area that showed new building. It only had numbers for seven developments in Lakewood. The information left off almost 3,000 new housing units being built in Wheat Ridge including Clear Creek Crossing and the Lutheran Legacy Campus. They also do not seem to be taking into account the high number of houses that already exist and are turning over from older residents to younger families that are choosing Wheat Ridge to raise their kids and want to send them to the great schools we have.
Jeffco is making a mockery of the public process. No community or public input was given before making the recommendation to close the schools. Jeffco has now doubled down by hiring professional moderators to create a process where parents and teachers are invited to meetings and given no opportunity to ask questions about the process or present information to change the districts proposal in any way. The school board will not vote on the Superintendent’s proposal until November, but we are being told that the decision is already made. That shows a complete lack of transparency on the part of Jeffco. We deserve to have our voices heard!
The proposal as it stands is for the school board to vote on all 16 schools to either stay open or to close as one vote. This is to avoid any one school or community from being able to raise enough support to pull themselves off of the chopping block. Our Wheat Ridge community is not the same as Old Town Arvada, or other parts of Lakewood. We are a much younger and vibrant community that has worked hard to attract younger families. Our community deserves to be voted on, on its own merits. I encourage everyone to write, call, or email the Jeffco School Board to tell them to vote NO on this proposal. It is bad for Wheat Ridge and our Jeffco community as a whole.
–Korey Stites, Wheat Ridge City Council member, District III
Greetings Jeffco Board of Education,
Thank you for taking the time to read this letter. I realize you have tough decisions ahead of you, but want you to be conscious of the fact that there are children and communities being adversely affected by the conclusions you make. The numbers and costs may lead you in a direction that is contrary to the positive trajectory that could be envisioned at this time. Jeffco is full of impassioned, intelligent community members. We are resources that could help the board consider alternative strategies that could have better, more positive impacts on the numbers and costs, as well as the local communities. I urge you to vote no in November, and to then work with all of the school communities under consideration to come up with a better plan for the district. The current plan will devastate so many communities and have lasting impacts on our children.
Dear Neighborhood Gazette,
As a mom of a first-grader that entered school during a pandemic, it’s so hard to know that our daughter has never experienced a normal, stable school year. Kicking off this year with the heartbreak of knowing the school could be closing, and then knowing next year she’ll be experiencing the adjustment of a brand new school. Will she be in third grade before she has just a regular, stable school year? Don’t they realize how much we’ve all been through already?
In Colorado, we as parents choose which school we want our kid to attend.
We chose a small neighborhood school because there is data showing that smaller schools benefit kids. Our daughter knows most of the teachers and staff at her current school by name and they know her name. This proposal sends her from a school of 200 to a school of almost 600 students.
We chose a small neighborhood school to support and connect with our local neighborhood. We wave at our neighbors as we walk past their homes on our walks to and from school each morning and afternoon. We help neighbors with school pickup when parents are running late. There’s data showing the importance of a connected local community and neighborhood, and I am proud to say that I see how important it is firsthand.
We chose a small neighborhood school so that our daughter can meet the neighborhood kids her age and grow up with her neighborhood friends. We’ve all heard “it takes a village to raise a family” and for many, the local neighborhood is that village. A connected community of neighbors is immeasurably important, and it’s hard to see a rushed proposal carelessly see past that.
–Kristine Rhome, Wilmore-Davis Elementary
To Whom It May Concern,
My student attends Kullerstrand Elementary School and I want to write to you in support of keeping our beloved school open. We are one of 16 schools in the district that are scheduled to close and these closures will impact roughly 9,400-9,900 elementary students from both the closing schools and receiving schools in Jeffco. We are devastated by this news and don’t think you truly understand the impact of closing our school.
We are a very tight-knit school of 196 students (including our preschool classroom). We have actually increased our numbers by eight students (K-5 only) since last year and can guarantee our numbers will keep going up with the amount of growth that is occurring in Wheat Ridge, including the COVID Baby Boom.
Have you considered doing other things within Jeffco BEFORE YOU affect your students and families? Did you know that you are doing the following?
• Closing 15 schools that serve a higher percentage of students who qualify for free & reduced lunch than the district percentage
• Closing 14 schools that serve a higher percentage of students with special education needs than the district percentage
• Closing 12 schools that serve at least one race and ethnicity group at a higher percentage than the district percentage
Applewood, Wheat Ridge and the Denver metro area are becoming cost-prohibitive places to live for everyone, but especially so for low-income families. So much of the appeal of our school is that we are a community for everyone. Other neighborhood schools attract the same demographic of students. We are fortunate in that we have a diverse population. We feel that our kids learn so much more about the real world when they are in class with kids with different backgrounds and ethnicities.
We ask that you re-evaluate your plan to make a “one vote fits all” to close these schools. We know that some schools will inevitably have to close. We are NOT ONE OF THOSE SCHOOLS. Please look at our recent test scores. Look at the location of our building. The open space our building is located on will allow us to continue to grow our school. Please help us keep our community the way it is.
–Prepared by the Kullerstrand PTA for parents to send to the Jeffco Public Schools superintendent and board of education; it can be found at https://docs.google.com/document/d/1k3mqj9KmNutvhh84eC0zHu0WrKFhgN6f/edit?usp=sharing&ouid=112330177879233623403&rtpof=true&sd=true)
Dear Neighborhood Gazette,
The quality neighborhood schools were a strong factor in my husband and I choosing to move to Jefferson County. We believe in public schools, the education they provide, and the community they create. We are both products of public education and have used that education to create very comfortable lives here in Wheat Ridge. We understand the invaluable service the schools provide our children and the larger community as a whole, and we have always voted to fund public schools.
The August school board vote to accept the proposed district plan to close 16 Jefferson County elementary schools is very disheartening. These children are being hit with a terrible decision as they continue [to] recover from the devastating educational and social impacts of COVID. The news that the community they are familiar with, the teachers they love, and buildings filled with peers, families, and staff that bring them such joy will be closed has already had a significant negative impact on the 2022-23 academic year. But poor timing for this decision is only the tip of the iceberg in why it is essential for school board members to vote NO in November.
The data used to make school closure determinations is flawed. Wheat Ridge has several housing development projects the school district acknowledged were not accounted for in this closure plan. It is a split age community primarily comprised of very young families and elderly neighbors that will inevitably result in population turnover and a significant increase in school age residents. Demography experts agree available data is skewed due to recent extraordinary challenges ranging from the COVID pandemic, historic hurricane and wildfire seasons, and political interference. The school district and board have not completed the necessary leg work to determine Wheat Ridge schools are reasonable candidates for closure and that reason alone should justify a NO vote in November.
At the end of the day, the school district needs to determine how to balance the budget. This audit only evaluated elementary school size and building use, it did not evaluate whether or not there are financial inefficiencies at the district office level, whether or not the small schools are better at closing achievement gaps, or the small school cost has better long-term payoffs in graduation rates. This audit did not evaluate the district as a whole and proceeding with school closures will end up costing the district more to repair the damage they create. This district proposal does not equate to a true cost savings and disproportionately harms vulnerable populations emotionally and educationally.
This issue goes beyond my two Kullerstrand students because voting for public school funding is a vote for the Wheat Ridge community as a whole. Prospect Valley is a wonderful school but adding nearly 200 students, despite the new building, will change the quiet and peaceful neighborhood surrounding the school. More parents driving to drop-off and pick-up students further congests roads and will change the community dynamic. Small school options improve education outcomes, prevent further traffic delays, and keeps homes and communities surrounding the schools thriving. The community should have been provided a prominent voice in this discussion that goes beyond the public comment page on the Jeffco Public Schools website because Wheat Ridge deserves the ability to continue to draw families and community members who contribute to Wheat Ridge.
–Meghan and Eric Schleicher