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Glass: Underspend dollars, reserves likely to fund sixth-grade transition

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By Sal Christ

Jeffco Public Schools will likely fund needed classroom additions at two South Jeffco schools impacted by the district’s shifting of sixth grade to middle school with surplus budget dollars and reserve funding next year, according to Superintendent Jason Glass.
On Nov. 1, Glass said that while the Jeffco school board hasn’t yet approved funding for classroom additions at Summit Ridge and Ken Caryl middle schools, it isn’t because the money isn’t there.
“We haven’t presented the funding requests to the Board of Education yet because we’re still in the design process,” he said. “We don’t have the total costs of the projects available yet. We expect to be able to present those numbers to the school board in December or January, and we expect it to be about $14 million to $15 million total.”
Glass said that though community members may have interpreted an Oct. 20 entry on his “Advance Jeffco” blog as indicative of a lack of funding for the classroom additions, it isn’t true.
“The funds (for those projects) are primarily going to come from the underspend — or surplus dollars (leftover when annual expenditures come in under budget). Construction dollars are a good use of one-time, surplus dollars — the additions at Dunstan and Drake middle schools are going to be funded from underspend, for example,” said Glass. “If we don’t have that, we’ll have to use dollars from the district’s cash reserve (to fund the South Jeffco additions).”
While Glass said he was hopeful the district will be able to fund the South Jeffco classroom additions with underspend dollars or cash reserve funding, he admitted that other options will be considered if both of those avenues fail.
“If we want to honor existing choice enrollment options, we’ll have to expand those schools to accommodate the increase in students,” he said. “If we don’t do a full build, we could do temp buildings in the short-term until a bond issue is passed — or we would use the temp buildings long-term, which the community there doesn’t want.”
Glass said a last resort option would involve not expanding any of the middle schools to accommodate choice enrollment and therefore limit the number of sixth-grade spots at both middle schools.
“Speaking from the administration standpoint, that’s our least favorable option. We don’t wish to interrupt the choice enrollment in that area,” he said.
Going forward, Jeffco Public Schools will soon begin construction on classroom additions at Drake Middle School in Arvada and Dunstan Middle School in Lakewood. The school board formally awarded construction contracts to GH Phipps and Himmelman Construction during its regular meeting Thursday.
Altogether, the grade reconfiguration is expected to cost the school district $32 million — less than half of what the endeavor was estimated to cost in the district’s proposed bond package last year. Glass attributed the difference in cost to the fact that the bond package included the cost of upgrades, renovations and modernization of the facilities; the current projection only covers the cost of accommodating sixth-graders at the middle schools.
Ken Caryl and Summit Ridge middle schools, as well as Creighton Middle School in Lakewood, are currently scheduled to begin serving sixth graders in the 2019-20 academic year.