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Jeffco schools looks at capital improvement program

The program includes $647 million in repairs and replacements


A proposed program of repairs and replacements to Jefferson County Public Schools’ 167 campuses is estimated to cost $647 million and take five to six years to implement.

“We have fallen so far short on the basics of adequacy and equity,” said Jefferson County Board of Education member Amanda Stevens after hearing a staff presentation of the program April 5. “We are looking at two enormous funding challenges — a 30 year statewide crisis and a 15 year Jeffco crisis. I’m a little intimidated by that.”

The program, presented to the board at the April 5 meeting, was not a specific list, but more of a general overview which highlighted six areas of concerns: efficiency and modernization, parity among facilities, programmatic needs, growth areas, replacement and specialties.

Efficiency and modernization, which is proposed to take up the largest sum of funds, would include reviews of all sites and focus on improvements to roofing, furnishings, food service equipment, mechanical and electrical systems, paving and playgrounds.

One specific recommendation from Tim Reed, executive director of facilities and construction for Jeffco schools, was to replace all lighting within schools to LED, expected to cut ongoing maintenance and operation costs by 20 percent.

Creating parity among facilities is proposed to be the second largest expense. This would largely focus on the district’s pre-1980 high schools.

About half of Jeffco’s high schools were built before 1980 including Alameda, Arvada, Green Mountain, Lakewood, Pomona and Wheat Ridge.

Students, staff at parents from the Alameda community spoke at the board meeting April 5 about facility inequality at their school.

Student Ruben Rodriguez spoke about his love for performing arts but that the bad shape of the school’s auditorium prevents students like him from taking that love to the next level.

He urged the board to take a look at things like bathrooms with no stalls, teachers sharing classrooms and classrooms with no windows.

“Alameda is more than a school for most student,” Rodriguez said. “It’s a safe haven — it’s my second home.”

Erin Murphy, a social studies teacher at Alameda, laid out specific examples of fixes that need to be made at the school including a bat population, inconsistency in temperatures of classrooms, and a hole that lets it snow in the hallway.

“Optics: they matter,” Murphy said. “When our kids go to another school, they come back and ask why are those schools so nice? At that point this becomes a question of social justice.”

Programmatic needs addressed in the program would include building additions that support the K-5, 6-8 grade configuration, address capacity issues at middle schools, support new programs and would allow the removal of 170 modular buildings.

Program updates to safety and security include securing building perimeters, building entry control and increased sit monitoring, fire sprinkler systems and increased video surveillance.

Updates in technology would include district-wide one-to-one devices, increased bandwidth, state of the art hardware and increased system security.

During the board of education discussion, Reed emphasized that the program presented was an outline.

“We need to flesh it out and determine what the improvements would be at every school,” Reed said. “Under this scenario every school gets touched. Even some of our new schools still have insufficiencies.”

Funding the improvements

One of the biggest questions the board of education has to ask now is how these improvements are going to be funded. The conversation turned again to asking the voters.

In 2016 Jeffco schools asked voters to approve $33 million mill levy override and $535 million bond package, which was rejected.

“One of the things I think about is was the size of the ask part of the problem two years ago? And if it was should we pay attention to that,” said board member Brad Rupert.

Reed said one of the differences in the 2016 ask and the program being presented now is that there is a heavy emphasis on differed maintenance.

“We didn’t do that in 2016 and that was maybe a mistake,” Reed said. “Every school is touched with this. That is the big difference.”

Stevens said with the information presented by staff, the board is now at a “critical stage” of needing to understand what the community wants.

“I don’t know what their priority is as tax payers,” Stevens said. “I think a major next step is to hone the program, the package and listen to our community and be responsive to the people that these schools belong to.”

Superintendent Dr. Jason Glass told the board that the next step is to start providing details on the program and engaging the community in what their schools would look like on the other side of this program.

“We have a bunch of steps, but based on the conversation tonight, it is something Jeffco needs,” Glass said. “And because it was not addressed in 2016, the needs are larger.”

Glass intends the proposed capitol improvement program to be center of his community engagement discussions for the remainder of the school year, through summer break and into August.

To be on this fall’s ballot, the board wound need to make a decision no later than the end of August.


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