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27J contingency plan: Extended periods, year-round schooling

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By Crystal Nelson

BRIGHTON — A contingency plan prepared for School District 27J recommends district officials start planning and training for extended day schedules and year-round schools during the 2014-15 school year. 

 

The School Facilities and Capital Contingency Plan, prepared by Western Demographics, recommends how the district should handle its growth should its potential bond measure and mill levy override fail in the November election. It also recommends officials plan for any and all human resource, budget, and operational impacts such as the costs for staffing, transportation, food service, building maintenance and repair schedules, etc.

High school students would be impacted first, with their school day extended by one period during the 2015-16 school year, two periods during the 2016-17 and 2017-18 school years and three periods during the 2018-19 school year. 

Elementary and middle school students would be impacted during the 2016-17 school year, with elementary schools switching to a year-round schedule and middle schools extending the school day by one period and adding new modular classrooms. During the 2017-18 and 2018-19 school years, modular classrooms would continue to be added and the school day would be extended by two periods.

School District 27J has seen its student population double over the last decade, and the student population has reached a point where the district closed open enrollment to out-of-district students at Turnberry Elementary School, Prairie View Middle School, Prairie View High School and Brighton High School for the 2014-15 school year. District officials anticipate student growth to accelerate to a rate of 600 to 1,000 students per year over the next five years. 

In his executive summary, Western Demographics President Shannon Bingham wrote this is a short-term plan and that they view the five-year capacity challenges faced by the district to be extensive, and will require significant actions that will change the way the district delivers programs if it is unable to fund permanent buildings. The report states that housing and enrollment growth will continue whether or not the district wins its bond election.

The report also stated, “The challenges of adding 600 – 1,000 new students per year to the district during the next five years cannot solely be addressed via short-term capacity solutions such as modular classrooms or boundary changes. The scale of this kind of growth is best met with the construction of new buildings.

Failing that, the short-term use of more systematic changes such as an extended school day or year round education are needed to mitigate capacity issues. At best, given the limited space in the district, even these systematic solutions would be a stop-gap measure workable for only four or five years at the most until new facilities can be constructed.”

In a district press release, Superintendent Chris Fiedler said there’s no foreseeable end to the district’s enrollment growth, which may surpass 17,000 students during the 2015-16 school year, and reach over 20,000 students in the near future.

“We have worked to squeeze everything out of our budget, but we have simply run out of options,” he said in a statement. “The state offers us no help for our crowding issues. If we cannot raise additional revenue for the new students, we will see longer school days and year-round schedules. That’s why we are reaching out to the community for answers.”

District officials are preparing for a potential $150 million bond measure and $7.5 mill levy override for the ballot in November, which would begin to tackle the district’s growing pains. The district will be conducting another poll at the end of July and Fiedler is expected to make his final recommendation to the board of education Aug. 26.