Jeffco schools looks at mill levy budget requests

Official 2019 requests will be brought to before the board Feb. 7

Posted 1/22/19

Ballot language for 5A, the mill levy override approved by Jefferson County voters in November, provided five specific areas funds could be dedicated to. Now, Jefferson County Public Schools staff …

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Jeffco schools looks at mill levy budget requests

Official 2019 requests will be brought to before the board Feb. 7

Posted

Ballot language for 5A, the mill levy override approved by Jefferson County voters in November, provided five specific areas funds could be dedicated to. Now, Jefferson County Public Schools staff and board of education are getting specific about what will be funded with these dollars.

Fifty percent is slated to go toward increasing district competitiveness through teacher compensation. Exactly how that money will reach teachers will be determined through district negotiated with the Jefferson County Education Association teacher’s union.

At its Jan. 10 meeting, the Jeffco Board of Education received a presentation on funding requests for the rest of those mill levy dollars. That discussion continued into the Jan. 16 study session. On Feb. 7, the board will be asked to approve funding requests for 2018/2019. Requests for use of 5A funds in 2019/2020 will be adopted as part of the normal budget adoption process, scheduled to end in June.

One of the big focuses of board discussion was dollars being used for safety and mental health supports. This includes dollars for suicide prevention training; social emotional learning curriculum, assessments and specialists; crisis intervention training; principal threat assessment training; and Safe2Tell materials. These items were all recommended by the district Safety and Security Task Force.

The plan also has $30,000 set aside for support and resources for the 20-year anniversary of the Columbine High shooting — described as “ensuring that the appropriate supports, both physical and mental, are in place.” Several community members commented on the mental health aspect of the dollars at the Jan. 10 meeting encouraging the board to support the hiring of more social emotional learning specialists.

“Classroom teachers are not trained to deal with mental health supports,” said Kendall Bolton, a teacher in Arvada, after she read a letter from a student who is struggling with her parents’ divorce. “It breaks my heart that I don’t know what to do to help this student.”

Angela Anderson, teacher at Bear Creek High, talked about students missing class due to anxiety, depression and post traumatic stress disorder in dealing with homelessness, hunger and trauma.

Other public speakers including Diana Rarich, of Lakewood, stressed that each school has different needs and those needs to be taken into consideration in funding mental health supports.

“We heard public comment and I think what I heard them say is that not every community needs the same thing and they think we need to do a needs assessment so we are not blanket funding,” said board member Ali Lassel. “We have one chance to spend this money and I want to do it in a way that’s going to benefit our kids the most.”

Funding technology, programs

The board also brought up concerns around funding classroom technology.

With $4.2 million dollars allocated to be spent on 1:1 devices, the line item goal is to provide equity and consistency across the district with all students having access to a personalized device and digital tools, purchased at the district level. This would be part of the 19/20 budget.

Kathleen Askelson, chief financial officer for Jeffco Schools, said the district is holding off on this until the next budget cycle in order to do more assessments at schools to determine what the best fit is.

District-provided devices, would allow student fees to be reduced.

Board member Susan Harmon expressed concerns about the rollout of the 1:1 devices. In the Jan. 16 study session she pushed for touch screen devices to get into the hands of students before Spring 2020, which was the original proposal.

“We are already behind in rolling this out,” Harmon said.

The purchase of 13 3-D printers at $20,000 each also drew questions from the board. Each high school in the district with and engineering program would get one of these industry-standard printers under district staff’s proposal.

Funds are also set aside to support Geometry in Construction programs at seven high schools — Green Mountain, Chatfield, Columbine, Golden, Dakota Ridge, Conifer and Brady.

Mil levy dollars will also help the district to expand its early childhood education programs by moving all its teachers to licensure. Immediately, the district will be looking for six full time Colorado Department of Education licensed teachers at four sites — Vivian, Slater, Foothills and Sheridan Green.

Matt Flores, chief academic officer for Jeffco schools, said this will get a jump on filling the current 24 vacancies the district has in this area.

There are also dollars set aside to invest in coursework to help current employed teachers reach licensure.

Additionally, mill levy dollars will increase preschools offering full day preschool classrooms for 2019‐2020 through an additional classroom each at Hutchinson and Dutch Creek as well as converting four half‐day classrooms to full‐day including two classrooms at Anderson, one classroom at Litz and another at Leawood.

“This is so exciting because we’ve been talking about early childhood as a board for three years,” Lassel said. “And now we have some money to do something about it.”

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