A ten-month contract with the Jefferson County Education Association was approved unanimously at the Aug. 27 Jeffco School Board meeting. The board also considered possible sites for a new school in the northwest Arvada area during the meeting, and will revisit those possibilities at their Sept. 3 meeting.
“I will honor the work of both sides,” board member Lesley Dahlkemper said, stating that she would vote in favor of the agreement with JCEA. Nevertheless, she said she didn’t feel that Jeffco was as competitive as it could be with this contract, and that the contract will contribute to increased job turnover in the district.
“I know of no other organization that spends 150 hours of negotiating time trying to come to an agreement, only to come out at the end with a 10-month contract,” Dahlkemper said. “It doesn’t make sense to me.”
“I think it’s bad business practice and I do think it’s a waste of taxpayer dollars,” she added. “Those are also dollars that could have been funneled back into the classroom.” She called for the board to step up in the spirit of flexibility and make this a three-year contract like that of Superintendent Dan McMinimee, but said she didn’t think that would happen.
Board member Jill Fellman also expressed frustration with the 10-month duration. “I think we have better things to do than continually negotiating,” she said, pointing out that they would need to start again in five months due to the short duration.
Board President Ken Witt praised the contract, stating that the 120-page contract had been reduced to 41 pages. He said the contract better meets the goals of having an effective teacher in every classroom, recognizing and rewarding great teachers, and applying limited resources to maximize student achievement.
Witt said he supported the 10-month duration “to ensure we fully consider whether we’re meeting the goals I mentioned with this rewrite.” Board member Julie Williams also expressed her satisfaction that the contract was shorter and “easier to understand for every layperson.”
“We have to remember this is the first total rewrite in decades,” board member John Newkirk said. “Accordingly, an initial term of one academic year is both reasonable and prudent.” The contract will expire June 30, 2016.
Amy Weber. Jeffco’s Executive Director of Human Resources, also clarified the number of unfilled positions currently open in the district, stating that as of Aug. 20, there were 28 unfilled teaching jobs, six mental health jobs and some speech pathology positions. There are also a number of positions open in job pools, but that doesn’t mean there are vacancies in schools, Weber said.
The board also considered three sites for a new school in northwest Arvada. Last spring, the board set aside $18 million for the construction of a new school to accommodate the new houses being built in the northwest corridor, an area stretching north from I-70 between Hwy 93 and Kipling.
Jeffco Schools is anticipating an increase of approximately 6,800 students in the next five to six years, Chief Operations Officer Steve Bell told board members. That number includes 4,884 students from the Candelas, Leyden Rock and Whisper Creek subdivisions, plus another 1,900 students from smaller “in-fill” developments that had been occupied by farmland until recently.
Schools that are impacted by the new housing include six elementary schools: Fairmount, Meiklejohn, Mitchell, Sierra, Van Arsdale and West Woods Elementary, along with Drake and Oberon Middle School and Ralston Valley High School. Bell said his goal was to maximize the number of seats the district can add for $18 million, and how they can impact the most schools positively.
The district had originally called for larger schools that would accommodate more students at a cost of $25 million at two of the three sites, but this presentation detailed what they could build with the $18 million budget constraint. The three sites are Table Rock, located at Highway 93 and 58th Avenue, a site in the Leyden Rock neighborhood, or a site in the Candelas neighborhood.
The Table Rock site could accommodate 625 students in a PK-8 school. The Candelas site could also accommodate 625 students in a PK-8 school, though Bell pointed out that the Candelas site is larger and could eventually include additional buildings. If the district chooses to build there, they would master plan the site so that additions could be made in the future.
The Leyden Rock site is smaller and is challenged by steep slopes that would require an additional six months to develop, as well as a significant increase in the cost per student, Bell said. The increased costs include retaining walls, multiple building pads, and perhaps more than one elevator in the building due to the steepness of the site, which adds $3.5 million of premium to construct at that site. The ten-acre parcel has approximately six or seven acres they can work with, and will only accommodate 450 students in a K-6 school, Bell said.
The cost per student is estimated to be $28,800 at both the Table Rock and Candelas sites, while the cost per student at the Leyden Rock is estimated to be $40,000. A school at the Table Rock site would positively impact nine schools, while a school at the Candelas or Leyden Rock sites would positively impact four and three, respectively.
“That does not solve our problem, but we have to start,” Bell told the board. The district eventually plans to construct schools at all three sites, but is currently limited to the $18 million set aside by the board.
The Jeffco School Board will revisit the issue at its Sept. 3 meeting. The district’s recommendation is to build on the Table Rock site in order to provide relief for several area schools and to provide the most seats. The meeting will be streamed.