D-11 consultants mostly mum before board report
Nov. 5 work session to reveal specific schools

       An aura of mystery prevails as consultants ready a “school utilization study” report for the District 11 Board of Education at a work session Wednesday, Nov. 5.
       The meeting will begin at 6:30 p.m. at the Tesla Educational Opportunity Center, 2560 International Circle.
       At issue is what schools may be proposed for closure or some new configuration as a result of findings by the consulting team led by Lantz-Boggio of Englewood, which was contracted by the school board last August.
       Team members gave public presentations at three locations (including West Middle School) on general issues and possibilities facing school districts last week and collected surveys from 85 to 90 people, according to John Kerr, a former district administrator who is helping with the effort.
       The consultants declined to reveal, in advance of the work session, their recommendations or even the results from the surveys. But they plan to give proposals for specific schools Nov. 5, consultant Shannon Bingham said at the West Middle School presentation Oct. 23. He added that he did not expect an immediate decision by the D-11 school board. “I suspect, based on discussions I've had with two board members, that they are interested in continuing the discussion at grassroots levels,” he said.
       Westside schools are especially attuned to the consultants' findings because most of them are relatively small and one of the issues is that smaller schools are more costly to run. But Bingham also noted “smaller schools in general are better for kids,” especially students who need extra help.
       Another issue that will be weighed carefully is performance. This metric will be welcomed at certain Westside schools, such as Howbert Elementary and Holmes Middle School, which are first in the state for Colorado Student Assessment Program (CSAP) scores among schools within 5 points (plus or minus) of their percentage of Title 1 (lower-income) students, according to test data. Others in the state's top 10 for their respective Title 1 percentages are West Middle School (4th), Pike Elementary (5th), Midland Elementary (5th), Washington Elementary (6th), Coronado High (9th) and Jackson Elementary (10th).
       Other possibilities, other than closure, include changing how different schools provide education. For example, K-5 elementary schools could become K-2 or 3-5 or even K-8, Bingham said. Or, specific programs could be consolidated into certain schools.
       The main factor forcing District 11 to make such decisions is diminishing enrollment. Bingham presented slides showing that the district birth rate is dropping and, taking advantage of the school choice option, more families are choosing to leave District 11 than those opting to enroll their students in it. This decline is expected to continue in the years to come, he said, mainly because the district for the most part has older schools and choice-oriented families typically prefer newer facilities.

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