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JEFFERSON COUNTY, Colo. (KDVR) — Jefferson County’s school board has approved a plan to close and consolidate 16 elementary schools in the district.

Facing thousands of empty seats across its campuses, Colorado’s second-largest school district proposed the closure plan as a solution. Back in August, the district released the names of the 16 elementary schools that will be affected:

School closureNew neighborhood school
EmoryLasley, with addition of dual-language program
CampbellFremont, Vanderhoof
Green MountainFoothills
Bergen Meadow2024-2025: Bergen Valley PK-5 (with building addition)
Glennon HeightsBelmar
Sheridan GreenRyan
KullerstrandProspect Valley

Parents upset at emotional Jeffco board meeting

Parents and community members at Thursday’s meeting spoke strongly against the closures, speaking on lack of community input, what this will do to class sizes and the mental health of students.

“We’re devastated, heartbroken, we knew that this was probably where this was going to go tonight but it still hurts in a way that I really hope no families have to feel because these are our kids,” parent and Wheat Ridge City Councilwoman Val Beck said.

“They looked at data and budgets and forgot to look at the communities they were going to be impacting,” Beck said.

One issue that came up repeatedly was inequity and what this will do to marginalized students.

“Please consolidate schools with similar demographics,” one parent said. “My students are at Vivian elementary, which is predominantly not white, and are going to be put in a school that is predominantly white and wealthy. This is not an ethical consolidation.”

But this type of consolidation was the goal: for those students at smaller schools to gain the resources the larger schools have.

“I cannot leave some kids in under-resourced schools while others get everything they need and more,” District 2 Board Member Paula Reed said. “When we talk about our students of color and our students who are marginalized, these are very often the students that are we are leaving in under-resourced schools. My conscience just can’t allow that.”

What’s causing Jeffco school closures?

Jefferson County has lost more than 5,000 students since 2019 in a pandemic-fueled trend that’s impacting schools around the country.

That exacerbated a trend that was already underway in the county. Since 2000, the district has lost more than 30,000 school-aged children, even though the population has grown by nearly 56,000 people. Births are at a 15-year record low.

Right now, the school district has a capacity for 96,000 students. The consolidation plan would reduce capacity to 89,000. Enrollment this year is just 69,000.