There was a time where you moved to a neighborhood and your parents would look for the nearest school and that’s where you would go. Schools were about pure education. Teaching you to write, to read and various levels of math. When families started tuning in closer to what motivated their children, they began shopping around for schools that were a “better fit.”
Moving forward, Wheat Ridge now has an astounding 22 schools. These include neighborhood, private, charter and the list goes on. Success is measured in how many students have enrolled for that year and some on how many choice into that school from other districts. Choice is important. Even some of our politicians who are upset about the closing of their schools don’t actually send their kids to their neighborhood schools. But that’s OK. In fact Jeffco has 10,000 students that choose to attend charter schools. Why? Simple, The curriculum offered at their neighborhood schools wasn’t a good fit for their children.
Colorado students overall struggle when it comes to basic math, English reading and writing. No exception with Jeffco, including Wheat Ridge students. In fact, 2022 CMAS shows that only 22 percent of Colorado seventh-grade students meet or exceed math scores. While public schools boast about the cars they built and bike programs, sadly they are falling behind in the very basics. Parents get frustrated and move their kids to schools where they have more say on what and how a curriculum is delivered and measured.
When my kids were attending Prospect Valley, we were part of the 72 percent that were choicing in, while Stevens Elementary was struggling to fill their seats. Once the leadership change happened at Stevens, the detention room was changed to a yoga room. Mental health became a focus and the celebration of diversity made every student feel important with more of them every day looking forward to the next. Families flocked to Stevens and enrollment grew. Principal McManus would have never helped families through “transitions.” She would have been on the street with her family fighting these closures.
There is a reason why Mountain Phoenix has 654 students (19 per class) in their school. Why Maple Grove is bursting at the seams with 333 students at 84 percent capacity. Yet Wilmore Davis has only 208 students and is at 60 percent capacity. Vivian is at a low count of 124 students and at 48 percent capacity. Kullerstrand however, with only 176 students, is at 71 percent capacity and is surrounded by high-valued homes and young families. The highest per capita income in Wheat Ridge ($86,000). A recipe that is seeing success. Free and reduced percentage dropping from 80 to 62 percent. Involvement in their PTA growing, more parents walking their kids to and from school. Kullerstrand is the reason why the board’s “all or nothing” plan of closing schools is flawed.
Is your school on the chopping block? Is your principal out there knocking on every single door in your neighborhood inviting families to send in their students? Have you figured out why families have chosen another school for their kids? Are you mobilizing your accountability committees and making the needed changes to your curriculum? Your neighborhood schools are not in need of your dollars or yard signs. Neighborhood schools are in dire need of your kids.
Guy Nahmiach is the Publisher of the Neighborhood Gazette.