District's recommended cuts include option bussing, school improvement funds

June 4 discussion one step in budgeting process

Casey Van Divier
cvandivier@coloradocommunitymedia.com
Posted 6/8/20

As the school board and district team get closer to making final decisions on the 2020-2021 budget, the team has divided some of its potential districtwide cuts into recommended, disruptive and …

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District's recommended cuts include option bussing, school improvement funds

June 4 discussion one step in budgeting process

Posted

As the school board and district team get closer to making final decisions on the 2020-2021 budget, the team has divided some of its potential districtwide cuts into recommended, disruptive and damaging categories.

Jeffco expects a decrease in state funding of about $74.3 million this year because of the pandemic, and though a good portion of this could be offset by federal aid, the district is still preparing for tens of millions in cuts.

At the June 4 Board of Education meeting, the three categories were discussed, with no final decisions made. The board had plans to further discuss these cuts along with larger possibilities, such as a districtwide furlough day, during its June 10 study session.

The initial list of recommended central cuts included several larger items, such as the elimination of bus routes to option schools, which drew several community members out for public comment.

The roughly $475,000 cut to district transportation would do away with approximately seven bus routes, affecting students at D'Evelyn Jr./Sr. High, Dennison Elementary, Free Horizon Montessori, Jefferson County Open School and the Manning School of Academics & Arts.

Marci Edford, a Morrison resident who has children attending D'Evelyn and Dennison, said the family relies on bus transportation every day.

“It would be very difficult for me to get my children back and forth from school,” she said. “We pay money for the bus and I would be happy to increase the amount that we have to put forward.”

However, said chief operating officer Steve Bell, fee increases could likely not meet the cost of bussing each individual student, which runs at about $1,300 to $1,500 a year. Further, the district already does not provide transportation to some options and this would create consistency, he said.

Other line items discussed included a $2.2 million cut to school improvement funding. The funding was first awarded to high-impact schools two years ago, when the district had funds available to increase SBB budgets (student-based budgeting) and chose to do so at the schools most in need of extra resources.

Because of the pandemic, the district only has reliable data on the effectiveness of the funding in its first year, as opposed to the past two years. The results have been mixed, said chief of elementary schools Renee Nicothodes.

Additionally, a recommended reduction of almost $200,000 will eliminate two literacy interventionist positions that are currently vacant. The interventionists work with children on read plans, with about 2,900 students on the plans, said chief academic officer Matt Flores.

He cited a study showing that 50% of students who worked with the Jeffco interventionists increased two or three “levels,” or standard deviations of the mean. In other words, 50% of the students who worked with the interventionists hit the specified benchmark for improvement.

“I do believe the literacy interventionists are making a difference,” Flores said.

Items that have been explored but are not being recommended for reductions include an approximately $250,000 cut to the Athletics Department; a roughly $400,000 cut to the IT Department; and the elimination of four positions — an English as a Second Language (ESL) teacher, ESL tutor, the district lobbyist and the district grants coordinator.

Board member Stephanie Schooley questioned the $2.2 million cut to student improvement funds, and board member Brad Rupert sounded uncertain about cutting the literacy interventionists. Other board members still had questions about these recommended items, with plans to further discuss them at the June 10 session.

The budget must be adopted by the school board by July 31 with a chance for revisions later on.

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