The Jeffco Schools consolidation process has been, simply put, tough. The merged school populations are working hard to make the best of a challenging situation but the loss of culture and community is draining for students, families and staff. The school district branded the closure process “Regional Opportunities for Thriving Schools” but I have talked with a broad swath of impacted Wheat Ridge community members and have not met anyone who called the new communities “thriving.”
I grew up in a military family experiencing frequent school changes and thought I knew what to expect. I have since realized school changes were easier where schools were experienced in supporting children through school change challenges. Even with experienced support, each location change was difficult and took an emotional toll that impacted my educational outcomes.
I was excited to provide my children a more stable school experience, so when the initial vote decision was announced, I fought hard and pressed the school board to find different ways to resolve their budget crisis. Alas, the effort was unsuccessful and all those I fought beside worked hard to process the loss and move forward with a positive focus.
The first stumbling block has been organizing logistics for student drop-off and pick-up. Education staff are put in traffic enforcement roles, families wait in long lines going to and from the schools, children arriving on buses have unsupervised periods while they wait for school doors to open, and school neighborhood residents must plan around school start and end times. Everyone is trying their best to make the process smooth but there is no getting around the impact of creating large school populations.
Consolidation also revealed how much cultural identity can vary between schools and how much work is required to balance old and new identities. The impact is significant for everyone in a merged community and creates new challenges for academic learning. Further complicating cultural identity blending is large class sizes, reduced time in special subjects (music, art, STEM and physical education), and while after school club options are more abundant, they are also less available because of limited space, prohibitive costs, and increased bus students needing to depart before clubs begin. Incorporating these challenges following the COVID-19 pandemic could not have been more poorly timed.
I am a working parent trying my best to commit time to support amazing school staff and volunteers to provide ourselves the promised “thriving” environment. Everyone acknowledges the merge process takes significant time and effort. Unfortunately, the larger challenges that led to closures remain as the district still faces large budget deficits. More school closures are likely as education funding measures are not generally supported by the electorate. District officials must reevaluate how future closure decisions are handled and support academics by providing better merged community support. Finally, I urge Wheat Ridge to support our public schools and celebrate school staff and school volunteer heroes.
Meghan Schleicher has been a Wheat Ridge resident since 2010. She has worked in the field of international education, she has received her BS from The College of William and Mary in Virginia, and is the proud mother of 9 and 7-year-old Prospect Valley Elementary School students.