The Jeffco School District chose to close all small neighborhood schools, regardless of the true costs to families and community. The March 30 opinion piece by Tom Coyne puts the whole "crisis" in perspective with his five key points and many excellent observations. In this letter, the authors would like to build on these observations and offer some solutions that were made available to the District starting in 2016, but was ignored.
The basic funding concept is to rent out unused school floor space in a way that is compatible with Jeffco educational goals. And since Jeffco has a captive customer base, it could also take a share of the profits. The SUN Community School system in Oregon has documented examples of this new funding source. The average revenue generation from the top 14 SUN schools was $215,000 in 2015. If Jeffco could replicate this system in just 10 "under-utilized" Jeffco campuses, it could generate over $2,000,000, per school, per year needed to keep small neighborhood schools viable.
The Board of Education needs to direct the district to take this opportunity to engage the community in creative problem solving. There are many issues that need to be resolved before a conceptual solution can be turned into a new business plan for Jeffco. The next logical step is to invite representatives from Cincinnati schools, which also have seen success using similar funding methods, and Oregon SUN schools to speak to the Jeffco District officials and the school board. It is time to stop closing schools and find a new way to fund them.
Tom Gould of Golden and
Thor Johnson of Arvada