Another District Consolidating Public Schools As Families Leave Them
Another metro area announces upcoming school building closures, as the Jeffco school district continues to suffer from enrollment losses.
The era of public school success in America looks to be cautiously coming to an end, as more families are leaving the system for alternative education options. School enrollment has been gradually declining over the last few decades, but many experts blamed it on the fact that families were having fewer or no children. Regardless of the possible reasons, there is now no denying that the pandemic has exacerbated the figures, and more and more districts across the nation are being faced with the decision to close and consolidate schools. In Colorado, that notion is heartfelt for the Jeffco school district, where school leaders are scrambling to draft a plan as they prepare to close multiple school buildings.
Chalkbeat reports that the Jeffco school district is beginning to implement plans with a long-term goal to downsize the number of public school buildings in the area. Said to be a “dire” situation by Lisa Relou, the district’s chief of strategy and communications, the group in charge of school closures will look for which schools will benefit the most from closures next year. Relou says it is necessary, as many buildings are now housing less than 60% of their potential capacity.
The large school district noted that 49 of the elementary schools this year had fewer than 250 students enrolled. For the Jeffco school district, this means that more than half of these schools were operating with too few students for functionality. Of these schools, six of them had far less than 200 students.
Mirroring many other districts across the nation with similar issues faced, the Jeffco school district was already facing this problem before the pandemic shuttered school buildings. However, even more families were found to leave the public school system afterward, and many of them still haven’t returned. Still, there are other factors driving this finding, especially in metro areas like this one. Higher costs of living in urban areas are thought to be a cause, as more families are leaving the area.
With the numbers of students enrolled in the Jeffco school district projected to drop even lower next fall, district leaders have no choice but to close some of those school buildings to keep operating under budget constraints. Since school funding is tied directly to student enrollment, fewer students mean less money being given to the schools for operation. District officials have argued that resources have been stretched to a breaking point, and that there is no possible way to keep some schools operating with such little attendance.
In the past two years, the Jeffco school district had already abruptly closed two elementary schools. Upsetting many parents, the district wanted to make sure the upcoming closures were handled in a better manner, which is why they have implemented a new plan to do so, called the Regional Opportunities for Thriving Schools.
In order to keep parents aware of where school closures stand, the plan looks to roll out Jeffco school district building closures in a periodic manner. No schools have been recommended as of today for closure. Additionally, it appears that the district will not be closing any of them at the start of the next school year this coming fall. The Jeffco school district isn’t alone in planning to close multiple public schools. Also in Colorado, Denver is preparing to close multiple schools over the next few years. Likewise, so is Albuquerque in the state of New Mexico. These decisions are angering many parents, but for school leaders, it appears to be the only possible way to keep these failing districts afloat.