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Jefferson County Public Schools considers closing 5 elementary schools to save money

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GOLDEN, Colo. -- Jefferson County Public Schools is exploring the option of closing five elementary schools and eliminating 150 positions to raise $20 million to $25 million to increase staff pay.

The five schools under consideration for closure beginning in the 2017-18 school year are Peck Elementary School (6495 Carr St. in Arvada), Pennington Elementary School (4617 Independence St. in Wheat Ridge), Pleasant View Elementary School (15920 W. 10th Ave. in Golden), Stober Elementary School (2300 Urban St. in Lakewood) and Swanson Elementary School (6055 W. 68th Ave. in Arvada).

The school district presented the option along with other options to the school board at a meeting Thursday night. The board listened to the ideas but does not plan to make a decision until a later date.

Superintendent Dan McMinimee said Jefferson County must increase staff pay to recruit and retain quality educators.

McMinimee said nearly every district in the Denver metro area pays more than Jefferson County. On average, teachers in Jefferson County make $10,000 to $15,000 less than teachers in other districts.

McMinimee said it's challenging to remain competitive with other districts because teachers are lured away by the promise of better pay and better benefits packages.

McMinimee said it's a tough decision, but it's the best option for students and teachers.

"Yes, families' lives will be disrupted. We totally recognize that, but what we hope happens, and the goal for this evening, is to keep our eye on the prize," McMinimee said.

"The prize is making sure we have highly qualified and exceptional educators in every one of our classrooms and have highly qualified and trained staff that are serving within our district and the only way to accomplish that is making sure you are compensating those people on a level that's competitive with the other metro areas."

Still, parents worried about the fate of their children's schools.

McMinimee said certain areas of the district are growing, while other areas are shrinking. He said it doesn't make sense to continue operating schools that aren't at capacity, especially while resources are already strained.

"In Jefferson County, we have some buildings that aren't even close to capacity. We have been spending dollars, putting it into those facilities, putting it into utilities, putting it into upkeep of those buildings. When we don't have any revenue source coming in, we have to make some very difficult decisions," McMinimee said.

In November, voters failed to pass bond and mill levy measures that would have raised more than $500 million for the district. McMinimee said the district would be in a better position if those had passed, but these questions about resources would still be discussed.

"We would always be in the mode of, 'Hey, are we using our facilities as efficiently as possible?'" McMinimee said.

Jefferson County Public Schools spokeswoman Diana Wilson said there were a number of other changes proposed that could help the district raise more money.

  • Increase building/field use fees to average of what surrounding school districts charge
  • Increase athletics fees
  • Reduce some district-wide budget items such as fuel and utilities, for example
  • Educational research and design: move some expenses over to grant funding, reduce overall expenses, and reduce staff levels
  • Reduction of achievement directors, support staff, educator effectiveness staff, social/emotional support, and gifted and talented teachers
  • Reduce technology support, including some filtering on devices used at home and reduce staff
  • Eliminate busing to option schools and outdoor lab schools

The public will have a chance to weigh in on the options before the school board makes a decision at a meeting on Feb. 9.