Education

Jefferson County Wants to Close These Sixteen Elementary Schools

A 2021 image of Peck Elementary in Arvada, one of sixteen Jefferson County schools recommended for closure.
A 2021 image of Peck Elementary in Arvada, one of sixteen Jefferson County schools recommended for closure. Google Maps
At a special meeting on August 25, Jefferson County School District staff presented the board of education with a proposal for the closure of sixteen elementary schools, or about 10 percent of the district's total.

The shutdowns, teased at a mid-July session, would save the district as much as $12 million in the face of decreasing enrollment and troubling demographic trends that are impacting other districts across the metro area, too. But they would also bring seismic change to neighborhoods across one of Colorado's most populous counties.

The fact package delivered to the board lays out the rationale for the moves.

The second largest school district in Colorado, Jeffco Public Schools serves approximately 8 percent of all K-12 students statewide at 157 schools on 168 campuses. (This total includes charter schools; 142 of the facilities are district-managed.) But the presentation notes that the county lost more than 5,000 students during the 2019-2022 period.

Jeffco has seen significant population growth over the last twenty years, adding 55,854 residents from 2000 to 2020. But over the same period, the number of school-aged children, specified as ranging from five to nineteen, slid by 29,918. Given that 2020 recorded the lowest number of births over the previous decade and a half, the drop is expected to continue.

In Jefferson County, this has translated into more unoccupied chairs. Jeffco has the capacity to serve 96,000 students in what staffers define as "traditional district-managed schools," but only about 69,000 are current enrolled.

Two elementary schools have already been shuttered over recent years — Allendale and Fitzmorris. But those closures barely put a dent in the financial problem.

Not all of the elementary schools earmarked for closure are half-empty: Parr Elementary School in Pomona has a utilization estimate of 71 percent, while Kullerstrand Elementary School in Wheat Ridge notched 75 percent. But their enrollment is anemic: 172 and 179 students, respectively. Moreover, both have another elementary school (or schools) less than three-and-a-half miles away, with enough room for the pupils who would be displaced — among the main criteria for landing on the closure list.

According to the JPS staff, the shutdowns would reduce the number of elementary schools that have a student population of under 250 and/or a building utilization of 60 percent or less from 49 in 2021-2022 to 16 in 2023-2024. In addition, overall building under-utilization would shrink from 10,600 seats to 3,900.

The estimated cost savings are outlined in this chart:
The timeline for closure decisions calls for "school-based community engagement on transitions" to take place between September 6 and October 21; schedules for each school are included in the staff presentation. Public comment will take place from October 24-27, with the board expected to vote on November 10.

Here's the roster of sixteen elementary schools recommended for closure, complete with figures for current enrollment, capacity and building utilization.

Emory Elementary School in Alameda
2022-23 Enrollment: 385
Capacity: 876
Utilization: 45 percent

Peck Elementary School in Arvada
2022-23 Enrollment: 159
Capacity: 423
Utilization: 38 percent

Thomson Elementary School in Arvada
2022-23 Enrollment: 193
Capacity: 500
Utilization: 39 percent

Campbell Elementary School in Arvada West
2022-23 Enrollment: 195
Capacity: 364
Utilization: 62 percent

Peiffer Elementary School in Bear Creek
2022-23 Enrollment: 200
Capacity: 428
Utilization: 50 percent

Colorow Elementary School in Dakota Ridge
2022-23 Enrollment: 179
Capacity: 363
Utilization: 53 percent

Green Mountain Elementary School in Green Mountain
2022-23 Enrollment: 209
Capacity: 351
Utilization: 61 percent

Bergen Meadow (K-2) in Evergreen
2022-23 Enrollment: 193
Capacity: 567
Utilization: 44 percent

Molholm Elementary School in Jefferson
2022-23 Enrollment: 205
Capacity: 468
Utilization: 51 percent

Glennon Heights Elementary School in Lakewood
2022-23 Enrollment: 138
Capacity: 327
Utilization: 43 percent

Parr Elementary School in Pomona
2022-23 Enrollment: 172
Capacity: 312
Utilization: 71 percent

Sheridan Green Elementary School in Standley Lake
2022-23 Enrollment: 215
Capacity: 495
Utilization: 51 percent

Witt Elementary School in Standley Lake
2022-23 Enrollment: 204
Capacity: 452
Utilization: 55 percent

Vivian Elementary School in Wheat Ridge
2022-23 Enrollment: 129
Capacity: 291
Utilization: 56 percent

Wilmore Davis Elementary School in Wheat Ridge
2022-23 Enrollment: 208
Capacity: 403
Utilization: 58 percent

Kullerstrand Elementary School in Wheat Ridge
2022-23 Enrollment: 179
Capacity: 265
Utilization: 75 percent

Click to read the Jefferson County School District staff recommendations for elementary school closures, as presented on August 25. 
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Michael Roberts has written for Westword since October 1990, serving stints as music editor and media columnist. He currently covers everything from breaking news and politics to sports and stories that defy categorization.
Contact: Michael Roberts

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