LITTLETON, Colo. — A group of parents in Littleton fear new changes could be on the horizon for their children.
"This pandemic has caused major issues for all of us, but our kids will suffer the most from this. So, it's something that adds on to an already hard year," said Stephanie Rose, a parent of a student at Twain Elementary.
On Thursday night, the Littleton Board of Education heard recommendations from its Long Range Planning Committee. Some of the recommendations include merging Twain Elementary, East Elementary and Peabody Elementary into different schools in the district.
Rose and at least 30 other parents showed up ahead of the meeting to demonstrate with t-shirts and signs, showing their disapproval of the recommendations.
"Half of their friends and class might go to a different school," Rose said. "We want them to see that we respectfully disagree with their recommendations."
A district spokesperson said declining elementary school enrollment meant Littleton Schools had to consider ways to optimize resources while meeting academic needs. The spokesperson added enrollment was down by about 700 students from their pre-pandemic projections.
"It's just really, really hard for them [the students] — it's so much change at once, and, I don't know, we just hope for a different solution to all of this," said Amy Gamber, whose child also attends Twain.
"It's the biggest gut punch. Just the thought of this is devastating," another parent, Catherine Wray, said.
In a lengthy statement to Denver7 a district spokesperson wrote:
LPS has been carefully monitoring elementary enrollment for several years. The LPS Long Range Planning Committee also conducted an in-depth review of enrollment patterns across the district as part of its work over the last three years regarding the need to replace aging facilities over time and the resulting boundary changes. The data tells us that enrollment, particularly at the elementary level, continues to decline within the district.
Over the past 15 years or so, LPS enrollment has declined by about 3,000 students, usually at the rate of 75 to 100 students per year. LPS has always had enrollment challenges for a number of reasons (landlocked so no growth, high cost of housing, very low housing turnover, etc.) Then, the pandemic hit, and more families than usual across the district, the state and the nation moved or chose different education options. This year, LPS is down an additional 700 students from its pre-pandemic projections.
Given these variables, the Board discussed back in January a multi-year plan recommended by administration to optimize the use of district resources and facilities to meet student learning needs while operating the district effectively and efficiently. Key points of the recommendations include:
- When possible, maintain north/south transportation boundaries to avoid crossing arterial roadways.
- Centralize early childhood education services into one facility specifically designed for preschool-age learners.
- Move forward with plans to build a third elementary with capacity to serve 4 sections of each grade level (4 rounds) using premium 2018 Bond funds.
- Consolidate small schools (2-round) into existing schools to support 3- and 4-round elementary schools where possible.
Specifically, the recommendations are to:
- Combine the East Elementary and Ralph Moody Elementary school communities together into a new school to be built on the Ralph Moody campus.
- Combine small Peabody and Twain schools with existing schools for the 2022–2023 school year.
- Combine The Village North preschool with The Village at Highland preschool for one early childhood education center for the district located at Highland.
- Repurpose East Elementary, Peabody Elementary, Twain Elementary, and The Village North preschool, partnering whenever possible with community agencies for the betterment of family services in our community.
“LPS has made sacrifices over the past 15 years to keep some of our smallest elementary schools open. But, some of them are just too small now and can no longer offer the kinds of opportunities all LPS students should have,” said LPS Superintendent Brian Ewert. “Keeping small schools open has substantial long-term consequences financially for the entire district. Principals say that larger 3- and 4-round schools are best for kids. The good news is our new schools, being built thanks to the 2018 bond, are strategically placed in our community where school consolidations need to happen.”
The LPS Board of Education asked the LPS Long Range Planning Committee, which is made up of mostly community members, to vet and validate administration's recommendations. The Long Range Planning Committee will report back to the Board of Education throughout the spring semester. The Board has not made any decisions yet about any of the recommendations.