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District 27J offers first look at year-round options

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New schedules eyed as a contingency plan should bond, mill-levy measures fail

By Crystal Nelson

BRIGHTON — School District 27J is beginning to work on its contingency plan should the district not secure a bond measure and mill-levy override in the November election.

 

District administrators met with a group of parents Wednesday, June 4, to discuss what the contingency plan could look like. 

Western Demographics President Shannon Bingham, who is helping the district plan its contingency plan, presented parents with a number of scenarios about how year-round schools and other strategies could be used to address student population growth.

Under the proposals, year-round schools would most likely occur at the elementary level, where students could be on a four-track, year-round schedule. This means that students would be divided into four cohorts, with three cohorts attending school, while one cohort is on vacation. Students would attend school for nine weeks and have three weeks off. 

Year-round schooling could also be considered at the middle and high school level, but Bingham indicated that split schedules or extended-day schedules are more likely to be recommended for students at that level.

“If it wasn’t a workable scenario, we wouldn’t show you this,” Shannon told parents, but explained that the scenario would only give the district another five years before it would run out of space again based on current growth models.

Bingham said that regardless if the district’s planned measures pass or fail in the general election, the district will have to take measures to limit enrollment, which it has already done for Turnberry Elementary School, Brighton High School and Prairie View middle and high schools. This fall much of Brighton High School’s incoming freshman will be taking classes at Brighton Heritage Academy. 

“One part of our survival plan with Brighton High and Prairie View for next year (2015 to 2016) will be to add an eighth period, so instead of having seven periods, we’ll have eight,” he said. “We have to do that just to deliver service to children through the master schedule.” 

Bingham said the district might consider some boundary changes at the elementary level, as well as additional modular classrooms at the elementary and middle schools. Relocating preschools from impacted elementary schools would also be an option to free up more space. 

Implementing year-round schools or extended-day schedules will be expensive for the district, which Bingham pointed out could compete with money the administrators want in direct funding to services. 

Initial estimates show that it would cost the district $7.6 million for additional staffing, $907,000 in one-time capital costs and additional costs for utilities and more transportation. Purchasing 17 new modular classrooms to utilize available space at nine school locations would cost the district an additional $4.25 million.

District 27J Superintendent Chris Fiedler said administrators are worried where those additional funds will come from. 

“We are carrying reserve funds, we receive additional revenue with increased enrollment, we could conceivably be on the ballot for the bond and the mill and fail the bond and pass the mill,” Fiedler said. 

During the meeting, parents were able to give their feedback about which scenarios they might support. Fiedler said Bingham surveyed members of district leadership last month and with input from parents, Bingham will recommend a contingency plan to him in his report. 

“In August, I expect to recommend to the Board of Education our plan for new buildings and additional revenue in the form of a bond and mill levy questions for the November election and the contingency plan should the Board choose not to place the bond and mill levy question on the ballot or choose to do so and the bond question fails,” he said.

Fiedler said that if the ballot measures fail, the district will continue to struggle financially. He said the education of the average student in 27J has already been negatively affected by the fact that the district is headed into its fifth year of the School Finance Act not being fully funded as a result of the “negative factor.” He said the district also continues to be the lowest-funded school district in Adams County and ranks 172nd out of 178 school districts in funding per student.

“We will continue to have over-crowded schools and it will get worse with every passing year that we are unable to build new buildings,” he said, adding that by 2018, the district is simply out of room in the absence of new schools regardless of which contingency plan is implemented.