The Jeffco school board voted unanimously Thursday night to approve the closure of Moore Middle School, which will merge with Pomona High School to form a 6-12.
This move comes as part of the district’s efforts to address declining enrollment and make better use of resources. While Moore Middle School will continue its operations for the 2023-24 school year, its doors are set to close permanently after the spring term.
Moore Middle School is the first school to close under the second phase of Jeffco’s Regional Opportunity for Thriving Schools plan. The first phase of the plan was completed in November when the board voted to close 16 elementary schools. The second phase will focus on consolidation recommendations for K-8 and middle schools with possible additional closure recommendations starting in August.
With the merger of sixth, seventh, and eighth grades from the middle school into Pomona’s building, the high school will need to undergo renovation and expansion. The construction is estimated to cost the district between $1.8 million and $2.5 million.
The construction plans call for the creation of a wing for sixth and seventh grades on the second floor of the existing building, separate drop-off entrances for younger students, space for incoming staff, additional security measures, and an expanded cafeteria to accommodate more students who eat lunch on campus.
After discussions with community members, Pomona Principal Pat Rock and Moore Principal Brenda Fletcher brought a request to the Jeffco school board in March to combine both the middle school and high school in Pomona’s building.
The closure of Moore is unique in the way that this was requested by the Jeffco community and not by the district administration or the board of education, officials said.
“I think this is a really great example of an idea that came directly from the community to solve a challenge that they feel every day, and they wanted to get ahead of the district in terms of coming up with their own solution,” said Lisa Relou, Jeffco’s chief of strategy and communications.
Community forums were held at both schools before the proposal to close Moore was brought before the board.
According to district data, Moore Middle School uses 46% of its building capacity while Pomona High School uses 57% — the plan to merge facilities aims to maximize resources, which, according to the district, will save over $1 million a year.
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The two schools are not far apart, with just a 5-minute drive between them.
The district’s recent work has been spurred by years of declining enrollment. Even though the number of residents in Jeffco increased over two decades, the population of school-age children decreased by 29,918 from 2000 to 2020.
Fewer children are being born. According to the district, 2020 marked the lowest number of births recorded in 15 years.
Most Jeffco middle schools are losing more students than they attract through school choice. State law allows students to enroll in any district that will accept them. Meanwhile, about 12% of Jeffco families enroll their students in charter schools.
Even though she voted for the merger, board member Danielle Varda said she hopes the district takes a careful approach to issues such as helping families transition and integrating younger students with the older grades.
“I want to make sure we’re still creating a really great experience for them and their families,” Varda said.
Clarification: This story has been updated to reflect that the next phase of school consolidations will affect K-8s and middle schools. While the district website originally said secondary schools would be included, a district spokeswoman said no high schools are being considered for closure. The district website has been updated as well.
Sara Martin is an intern with Chalkbeat Colorado. Contact Sara at firstname.lastname@example.org