27J moves ahead with bond question

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By Crystal Nelson

BRIGHTON — The School District 27J Board of Education unanimously approved a resolution during its Aug. 26 meeting to place a $148-million bond question on the November general election ballot.

The board has been considering the possibility of pursuing both a bond measure and a $7.5-million mill-levy override until Aug. 26, when Fiedler recommended the board pursue the bond only. District spokesman Kevin Denke said district officials decided to pursue the bond and not the mill levy to provide clarity about what the district’s biggest challenge is — capacity.

“We know those operational needs are important and we know we could use additional funding for our students, but we didn’t want to confuse voters between the bond and the mill levy because we need that additional capacity,” he said. “As much as we need the additional operating revenue to increase programs and opportunities for our students, we desperately need new schools.” 

The passage of the bond would help the district combat overcrowding that’s occurring throughout the district. As of Aug. 26, there are 16,723 K-12 students enrolled in the district, which is 109 students over the district’s enrollment projections for the year. Enrollment at both high schools was also higher than expected. Brighton High School  is currently 219 students over its 1,709 student capacity and Prairie View High School is 153 students over its 1,800 student capacity.

A $148 million bond measure would cost about an additional $41.40 annually per $100,000 of home value and would allow the district to build new buildings and make a variety of renovations and improvements to its existing buildings. 

The bond would help fund the completion of Brantner Elementary School, the district’s third high school and two new elementary schools. It will also allow for expansions and renovations at Brighton High School, Brighton Heritage Academy, Eagle Ridge Academy, Vikan Middle School, and Overland Trail Middle School; modular classrooms to be added to Stuart and Prairie View middle schools; as well as a number of  security and infrastructure improvements to every school in the district. 

During the meeting, the board received an outpouring of support from dozens of parents, community members and organizations, encouraging board members to move forward with the bond measure. 

Chris Wahrle, president of South Elementary School’s Parent Advisory Council and the I am 27J parent and community group, pointed out that the schools are feeling the repercussions of growth in the area and raised concerns over how the overcrowding in school is impacting student learning.

“It’s very difficult for me to see students educated  in the hallway, students being educated in the library... I think that there’s a better, more conducive environment to be,” he said. 

Parent Heather Loller has two students enrolled at 27J – one in high school and one in middle school. She said her concern as a parent is that if the bond measure doesn’t pass, that they’ll end up with different schedules. She worries that would mean their family vacations are gone and after school activities are gone and said she is very frustrated.

Kathy Roybal, who has taught English at Brighton High School for the past 21 years, said her job has become harder over the years and that BHS is so over capacity that it’s hard to provide a good education for students. She said most classrooms have between 32 and 37 students in them and that teachers have more than 200 students a day in their classes.

Because BHS is an old building and classrooms are so small, Roybal said its hard to fit 35 desks or computers in the room and that students are also forced to share a computer or take turns using it. She said students who are commuting between BHS and Brighton Heritage Academy are struggling to make it to class on time and the vast majority students are forced to have an off-period every day, which isn’t good for any student. 

“Our students deserve more than they are getting,” she said, adding that they’re worth the small amount of money the bond is asking for homeowners to pay. 

The district also received resolutions of support from Foundations Academy’s Board of Directors, Eagle Ridge Academy’s Board of Directors and the Brighton Economic Development Corporation. Commerce City Councilman and a member of the I Am 27J parent and community group Jason McEldowney presented the board with 1,050 signatures I Am 27J received at back to school nights, community meetings and from online in support of the bond.

Fiedler said he was “overwhelmed” by the support of the community, and Director Donna Petrocco thanked everyone for attending the meeting and sharing their feelings. Director Greg Piotraschke reminded everyone that although the board approved the ballot language for the bond, residents still have to get out and vote for the bond measure to be successful.

District officials are now in the process of getting the ballot language to the clerks and recorders of Adams and Weld counties, and Denke said the I Am 27J group is going to move forward with campaign efforts from now on. 


In other business

The board approved a request to draw $174,600 from the Capital Facility Fee Foundation for Slater Paul Architects for design services. The district is beginning to plan for its 12th elementary school and will be ready to move forward with the project, pending the approval of the bond measure in November. The elementary school would be built between 104th and 112th avenues near Landmark Drive in Reunion and would relieve some of the overcrowding issues at Turnberry Elementary School. 

This is the board’s second draw request, as it approved a $204,275 draw request in June related to pre-bond design services for the completion of Brantner Elementary School.