Nearly 4,000 seat shortage in district expected within four years
The Superintendent’s Growth Advisory Task Force was established to build agreement and make a recommendation to School District 27J Superintendent Chris Fiedler on whether the district should seek additional funds in the November 2015 election for a bond (makes available one-time dollars for major repairs and new construction) and/or a mill levy override (provides ongoing money for operating expenses).
At the task force’s second meeting on Thursday, March 12, the conversation focused on the district’s capital needs due to continued enrollment growth. Some key reasons the district is facing overcrowding in schools include:
- School District 27J is the fastest growing district in the Denver-metro area with a 102 percent increase in enrollment from 2003 to 2013. (Douglas County RE1 is the second fastest growing school district with a 57.66 percent increase in enrollment from 2003 to 2013.)
- From 2000 to 2014, 27J enrollment has increased by 11,000 students.
- 27J boundaries encompass an area with the fifth highest number of building permits issued for new housing starts in 2014 and 898 new homes built within the district's boundaries last year alone.
- There is a vast amount of undeveloped land within 27J boundaries, and the land is among the cheapest to purchase and develop in the Denver-metro area.
- Enrollment is expected to grow by nearly 4,000 students over the next four years.
The growing number of housing developments and students moving into the district is creating capacity issues at many 27J schools. The district is already utilizing about 1,900 seats in modular classrooms to address overcrowding. Even with modular classrooms, schools are facing mounting capacity pressures.
At the elementary level, Northeast Elementary is over capacity. Several other elementary schools will reach and exceed capacity within the next few years. By 2019, there will be a more than 600 seat shortage at the elementary level.
Middle schools also are utilizing modular classrooms. Even with the use of modulars, Prairie View and Vikan middle schools have exceeded capacity. And, by 2019 the combined seat shortage in middle schools will surpass 780 seats.
The most significant overcrowding is occurring at the district’s two high schools. Combined, Brighton and Prairie View high schools are currently more than 440 seats over capacity. By 2019, there will be a 1,480 seat deficit at the high school level.
In spite of intensive long-range planning efforts, the district has been unable to pass a bond since 2006. Without the passage of a bond, funding is not available to add capacity at existing schools or to build new schools. As a result, a split schedule where students attend in overlapping shifts will be implemented for high schools beginning with the 2015-2016 school year to accommodate the growing number of students. The district will continue to evaluate necessary measures to accommodate the influx of students at all grade levels if funding to build additional schools is not obtained through a successful bond measure.
Many parents attending the Growth Advisory Task Force meeting were calculating what grades their children will be in 2019 and agreeing that facing capacity issues of the projected magnitude does not sit well nor is it conducive to learning, safety or an ideal educational experience for our kids.
Task force members representing the community also recognize how our community’s economic growth will be hampered by the lack of student space. This is not just a school district issue; this issue is negatively impacting our entire community.
The next Growth Advisory Task Force meeting will take place Thursday, April 2.