The Jeffco School Board tabled a proposal to add sixth grade to option school D’Evelyn Jr/Sr High School while also keeping sixth grade at Dennison Elementary due to questions about cost, governance, and sustainability at their April 4 regular meeting.
The revised proposal from the D’Evelyn Steering Committee called for sixth grade at both schools beginning with the 2020-21 school year. This was a change from the original proposal presented in January, which recommended moving all sixth graders to D’Evelyn by 2021-22, with a one-year transition period in which sixth graders would be at both schools.
The change was due to feedback they received from the Dennison and D’Evelyn communities. Dennison Principal Pamela Yoder said current families wanted their students to stay at Dennison for sixth grade.
Under the new proposal, approximately 90 sixth graders would remain at Dennison and approximately 110 sixth graders would be admitted to D’Evelyn. Each grade at D’Evelyn currently has about 200 students, Principal Josh Griffin said.
Community Superintendent Dan Cohan explained that the change would accommodate the 60 percent of D’Evelyn students who choice enroll from other parts of the district. Currently, those students typically attend a Jeffco K-5 elementary school, which requires them to attend a different school for sixth grade before transitioning to D’Evelyn in seventh grade.
This proposal would not require new D’Evelyn students to transition to two new schools two years in a row, while also meeting the needs of Dennison families who want the “Dennison K-6 experience,” Cohan said.
Questions about maintaining 6th grade programs at both schools
Board members questioned how it would work to have sixth graders at both schools and whether such a program would be sustainable.
Board Members Brad Rupert and Ali Lasell noted that other Jeffco schools were not given a choice about the K-5 transition and this proposal simply added the same sixth grade program in a different school.
Yoder said that a 6-8 environment is not the same as a 6-12 environment. She added that a 6-12 setting was a “struggling point” for Dennison families.
Griffin said the school still needed to work out plans for integrating the two sixth grade classes. In addition, they needed a plan for communicating about the choice lottery process with students at both schools.
“The question is, ‘should we have it at both places?’” asked Board President Ron Mitchell.
This feels like “creating a parallel school,” added Board Member Susan Harmon.
Board Member Amanda Stevens noted that there is room for flexibility in specific programs within the district. She pointed to Foster Elementary’s dual-language program. The district recently granted the school permission to expand to a K-8.
$8 million price tag for D’Evelyn addition
Rupert also questioned the price tag for an addition to make D’Evelyn a 6-12 school.
An addition would cost approximately $8 million to make D’Evelyn a 6-12, said Tim Reed, Jeffco facilities director. Jeffco would need to add 4 temporary buildings to the northwest part of the campus for the 2020-21 year. Construction could begin fall 2020 for a sixth grade addition.
Reed said the 20,000 square-foot addition would include four traditional classrooms and one art room. It would also include a multipurpose room that could accommodate all 200 sixth graders. The addition also would include additional storage, work space, restrooms, and an expansion of music facilities at the building.
The 2018 5B bond did did not include money for a D’Evelyn addition. As a result, the $8 million would need to come from a different part of the budget. Reed said it might be possible to cut the size of the addition by getting creative with existing space.
“There are no clear answers here,” said Superintendent Jason Glass. “As we’ve talked about it more and more, it’s become more cloudy to me.”
Questions about governance and the memorandum of understanding (MOU) also remained. Glass noted that the governance was not clear because the schools are separate entities.
“We’re in a grey zone,” Glass said.
Board members will revisit the proposal later this spring.
Dennison and D’Evelyn are both Jeffco option schools. Both chose to maintain their current K-6, 7-12 configuration in 2018-19, when most Jeffco schools changed to K-5, 6-8, 9-12 configurations. Currently, both the Alameda and Jefferson articulation areas also utilize K-6, 7-12 grade configurations.