Facilities panel narrows list, gets surprise

The Jeffco Schools citizen and staff committee that’s studying possible school closures, student reassignments and program moves Monday narrowed the options it may recommend to the school board in January.

StockJeffcoLogo110109Recommendations that received tentative committee support would close two middle schools and four elementaries and move some district 6th graders into middle schools for an estimated total savings of $3.8 million (before one-time costs.)

But, the Facilities Usage Committee got a surprise late in the meeting when members learned that theirs might not be the only recommendations put before the board.

The 30-member committee, created by the school board last spring, has conducted an exhaustive process of study, evaluation and public comment, including four public hearings in November that drew more than 3,000 people.

Co-chair Phillip Infelise hopes the panel can cull its current list of about 50 options to between 10 and 15 to present to the board.

But on Monday, Justin Silverstein, an Augenblick, Palaich and Associates consultant who is helping facilitate the panel’s work, told members that district staff might give the board additional options.

Jeffco supt. Cindy Stevenson
Jeffco supt. Cindy Stevenson

Some committee members raised questions, and Superintendent Cindy Stevenson said, “I think it’s just a matter of trying to figure out all the ways to look at the issue. … I just think the board when it has to make hard decisions likes to look at all available data.”

Stevenson said she’s attending principals’ meeting around the district to gauge their feelings. Noting that implementation of some recommendations could create “winners and losers” among schools, Stevenson said, “I don’t want to create divisions among schools.”

The board requested the additional staff review. Three of the five Jeffco board members are new since the facilities committee was created.

The facilities panel broke into three groups Monday to discuss the 50-some options currently on the table, and each group recommended whether individual options should go the board or be dropped.

Here are the major options all three subgroups agreed to should remain in play:

  • Close Arvada Middle School and move students to North Arvada Middle. Estimated annual savings $1.3 million.
  • Move Ken Caryl Middle students to Deer Creek Middle and close Ken Caryl. Estimated annual savings $1 million.
  • Closure of Pleasant View Elementary School and moving students to Shelton and Welchester schools.
  • Move 6th graders from Devinny Elementary to Dunstan Middle. Estimated annual savings $25,815.
  • Distribute Pennington Elementary students to three other schools and close Pennington; send Wheat Ridge Elementary 6th graders to Everitt Middle. Estimated savings $413,423.
  • Move 6th graders from Martensen, Stevens, Molholm and Wilmore Davis to Wheat Ridge Middle, send younger Martensen students to three other elementaries and close Martensen. Estimated savings $456,233.
  • Move all Pomona-area 6th graders to Moore Middle, mover Zenger K-5 students to other schools and close Zenger. Estimated savings $206,860.
  • Close and demolish up to 120 temporary classrooms at sites where use is under 92 percent. Estimated savings $442,548.

Among major options rejected by all three subgroups were moving Westgate and Green Gables 6th graders to Carmody Middle, moving Chatfield Elementary 6th graders to two middle schools, restricting enrollment at Falcon Bluffs Middle and various proposals to move some preschool and other special programs and to create partner elementary schools.

The subgroups weren’t unanimous on a number of other options, so those will be discussed again when the full facilities panel meets for the last time on Dec. 14. The final list is due to the board Jan. 14.

Major options in that group include:

  • Moving 6th graders in the Alameda areas to O’Connell Middle.
  • Moving 7th and 8th graders from O’Connell to Alameda High School.
  • Putting Arvada 6th graders into middle school and closing Russell Elementary.
  • Closing Foster Elementary.
  • Moving Stony Creek Elementary 6th graders to Deer Creek Middle.
  • Changing elementary and middle school attendance areas in the Evergreen-Conifer area.
  • Closing Carmody Middle.
  • Creating partner schools in the Edgewater area.
  • Closing Fitsmorris Elementary.

The original list that was discussed at a recent series of public meetings contained 31 main options that, along with multiple variations for some of the options, totaled 50.

See this EdNews story for an in-depth look at the committee’s work and links to committee document, audio of the public meetings and other information.

call out

Our readers had a lot to say in 2017. Make your voice heard in 2018.

PHOTO: Chris Hill/Whitney Achievement School
Teacher Carl Schneider walks children home in 2015 as part of the after-school walking program at Whitney Achievement Elementary School in Memphis. This photograph went viral and inspired a First Person reflection from Schneider in 2017.

Last year, some of our most popular pieces came from readers who told their stories in a series that we call First Person.

For instance, Carl Schneider wrote about the 2015 viral photograph that showed him walking his students home from school in a low-income neighborhood of Memphis. His perspective on what got lost in the shuffle continues to draw thousands of readers.

First Person is also a platform to influence policy. Recent high school graduate Anisah Karim described the pressure she felt to apply to 100 colleges in the quest for millions of dollars in scholarships. Because of her piece, the school board in Memphis is reviewing the so-called “million-dollar scholar” culture at some high schools.

Do you have a story to tell or a point to make? In 2018, we want to give an even greater voice to students, parents, teachers, administrators, advocates and others who are trying to improve public education in Tennessee. We’re looking for essays of 500 to 750 words grounded in personal experience.

Whether your piece is finished or you just have an idea to discuss, drop a line to Community Editor Caroline Bauman at

But first, check out these top First Person pieces from Tennesseans in 2017:

My high school told me to apply to 100 colleges — and I almost lost myself in the process

“A counselor never tried to determine what the absolute best school for me would be. I wasted a lot of time, money and resources trying to figure that out. And I almost lost myself in the process.” —Anisah Karim     

Why I’m not anxious about where my kids go to school — but do worry about the segregation that surrounds us

“In fact, it will be a good thing for my boys to learn alongside children who are different from them in many ways — that is one advantage they will have that I did not, attending parochial schools in a lily-white suburb.” —Mary Jo Cramb

I covered Tennessee’s ed beat for Chalkbeat. Here’s what I learned.

“Apathy is often cited as a major problem facing education. That’s not the case in Tennessee.” —Grace Tatter

I went viral for walking my students home from school in Memphis. Here’s what got lost in the shuffle.

“When #blacklivesmatter is a controversial statement; when our black male students have a one in three chance of facing jail time; when kids in Memphis raised in the bottom fifth of the socioeconomic bracket have a 2.6 percent chance of climbing to the top fifth — our walking students home does not fix that, either.” —Carl Schneider

I think traditional public schools are the backbone of democracy. My child attends a charter school. Let’s talk.

“It was a complicated choice to make. The dialogue around school choice in Nashville, though, doesn’t often include much nuance — or many voices of parents like me.” —Aidan Hoyal

I grew up near Charlottesville and got a misleading education about Civil War history. Students deserve better.

“In my classroom discussions, the impetus for the Civil War was resigned to a debate over the balance of power between federal and state governments. Slavery was taught as a footnote to the cause of the war.” —Laura Faith Kebede

Weekend Reads

Need classroom decor inspiration? These educators have got you covered.

This school year, students will spend about 1,000 hours in school —making their classrooms a huge part of their learning experience.

We’re recognizing educators who’ve poured on the pizazz to make students feel welcome. From a 9th-grade “forensics lab” decked out in caution tape to a classroom stage complete with lights to get first graders pumped about public speaking, these crafty teachers have gone above and beyond to create great spaces.

Got a classroom of your own to show off? Know someone that should be on this list? Let us know!

Jaclyn Flores, First Grade Dual Language, Rochester, New York
“Having a classroom that is bright, cheerful, organized and inviting allows my students to feel pride in their classroom as well as feel welcome. My students look forward to standing on the stage to share or sitting on special chairs to dive into their learning. This space is a safe place for my students and we take pride in what it has become.”

Jasmine, Pre-K, Las Vegas, Nevada
“My classroom environment helps my students because providing calming colors and a home-like space makes them feel more comfortable in the classroom and ready to learn as first-time students!”


Oneika Osborne, 10th Grade Reading, Miami Southridge Senior High School, Miami, Florida
“My classroom environment invites all of my students to constantly be in a state of celebration and self-empowerment at all points of the learning process. With inspirational quotes, culturally relevant images, and an explosion of color, my classroom sets the tone for the day every single day as soon as we walk in. It is one of optimism, power, and of course glitter.”

Kristen Poindexter, Kindergarten, Spring Mill Elementary School, Indianapolis, Indiana
“I try very hard to make my classroom a place where memorable experiences happen. I use songs, finger plays, movement, and interactive activities to help cement concepts in their minds. It makes my teacher heart so happy when past students walk by my classroom and start their sentence with, “Remember when we…?”. We recently transformed our classroom into a Mad Science Lab where we investigated more about our 5 Senses.”


Brittany, 9th Grade Biology, Dallas, Texas
“I love my classroom environment because I teach Biology, it’s easy to relate every topic back to Forensics and real-life investigations! Mystery always gets the students going!”


Ms. Heaton, First Grade, Westampton, New Jersey
“As an educator, it is my goal to create a classroom environment that is positive and welcoming for students. I wanted to create a learning environment where students feel comfortable and in return stimulates student learning. A classroom is a second home for students so I wanted to ensure that the space was bright, friendly, and organized for the students to be able to use each and every day.”

D’Essence Grant, 8th Grade ELA, KIPP Houston, Houston, Texas
“Intentionally decorating my classroom was my first act of showing my students I care about them. I pride myself on building relationships with my students and them knowing I care about them inside and outside of the classroom. Taking the time to make the classroom meaningful and creative as well building a safe place for our community helps establish an effective classroom setting.”


Jayme Wiertzema, Elementary Art, Worthington, Minnesota
“I’m looking forward to having a CLASSROOM this year. The past two years I have taught from a cart and this year my amazing school district allowed me to have a classroom in our school that is busting at the seams! I’m so excited to use my classroom environment to inspire creativity in my students, get to know them and learn from their amazing imaginations in art class!”


Melissa Vecchio, 4th Grade, Queens, New York
“Since so much of a student’s time is spent inside their classroom, the environment should be neat, organized, easy to move around in but most of all positive. I love to use a theme to reinforce great behavior. I always give the students a choice in helping to design bulletin boards and desk arrangements. When they are involved they take pride in the classroom, and enjoy being there.”