The final slide of the presentation said it all. “The decision of leadership staff is to consolidate the Allendale Elementary school community in the Spring of 2021.” And with that, the …
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The final slide of the presentation said it all. “The decision of leadership staff is to consolidate the Allendale Elementary school community in the Spring of 2021.”
And with that, the school’s 57-year run is coming to an abrupt end.
Teachers, parents and Jefferson County Education Association members gave public comment to protest the closing of the school during the April 13 Jeffco School Board Study Session meeting.
Joshua Kaus, father of two Allendale students, was one of those who spoke.
He said he went to Allendale as a child and moved back into the house he grew up in, to give his children the same education he valued in his own upbringing.
“When I heard about the talk of Allendale closing, just three weeks ago, it broke my heart,” he said.
Other concerns commonly voiced — Allendale students have missed out on choice open enrollment window; staff have missed critical time in locating new positions and the District not adhering to processes for closing a school — something more than one speaker brought up.
Indeed, there is a detailed policy in place for how the district is supposed to handle school closures. District document FCB-R, states that a report on a closure will be distributed six months prior to study and/or action on any school closure — something not done in this case.
When public comment closed, Susan Harmon, School Board President, talked about standards the district looks for in a school.
“Our district vision calls on us to deliver engaging learning experiences for all students,” she said. “In order to do this, four conditions for learning must be in place and sustained over time. Those conditions are, a commitment to equity, high expectations, a professional model of teaching and educator learning.”
Harmon said those conditions allow students equitable opportunities, access to high-level standards aligned to instruction, highly qualified teachers, and staff that are knowledgeable and prepared to deliver current and best practices in instruction.
“The decrease in enrollment at Allendale over the past five years has limited our ability to deliver on these promises for the students and staff,” she said.
Renee Nicothodes, Chief of Schools, Elementary, lead a presentation about the closing of the school that started by listing the challenges Allendale has faced.
Enrollment, programming, staffing, funding and operational challenges have all played a role in the decision about its possible closure.
In the last five years, Allendale has seen an overall decrease in enrollment of 45% with an annual average decline of 13%, Nicothodes said. Current enrollment for this year is 117 students, of which 88 are attending in person.
The neighborhood the school is located in has also seen a steep decline in elementary-aged children. To make things more difficult, 37% of Allendale students who are currently doing remote learning are planning to stay remote next year.
Nicothodes said that could bring the number of students attending Allendale for in-person learning next year to under 100.
School choice is also a big factor. Currently, 62% of students who live within Allendale’s boundaries choose to attend a different school. In fact, there are more students within the boundary that choice-out than students who attend the school.
District staff say there are budgeting concerns too. Nicothodes said the District continues to remain focused on the student experience, but it’s hard to separate the budget conversation from the overall conversation around Allendale.
“It is important to know how that (the budget) affects the student experience,” she said.
Reduced academic and extra-curricular offerings are two of the biggest issues the school faces.
Nicothodes used a comparison of programs offered at Fremont and Campbell Elementary schools, both small, but with closer to 200 students, to programs that would be offered at Allendale in 2021-22 if it were to remain open. The difference was vast.
When it comes to staffing, Allendale is so limited that the Principal teaches math sections every day. An instructional coach teaches Kindergarten. There’s a first/second grade split class with one teacher, a fourth/fifth split class with one teacher and a third-grade class with one teacher.
Nicothodes said the District spent $675,000 in subsidies in the 2017-19 timespan to keep Allendale operational. With projected enrollment of 90-100 students for 2021-22, and the available funding, the budget would pay for 4-5 teachers and a principal, leaving as little as $50,000 to pay for all other positions and resources.
Steve Bell, the District’s Chief Operating Officer, said low enrollment numbers impact efficiency levels, taking a toll on things like food and nutrition services, transportation and custodial services.
Other financial hits are on the horizon as well, as Allendale is projected to transition out of Title 1 status. For the 2021-22 school year, the school’s Title 1 funding will be reduced by 50%. For the 2022-23 school year, Allendale will receive no Title 1 funds.
The District has come up with ways of “softening the landing” for students who transition out of Allendale for the 2021-22 school year including the offer of guaranteed placement in neighboring Campbell or Fremont. A priority hiring pool has been created for staff members who will need to find a new place to work.
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