At meetings and in mailings this winter, Douglas County School District representatives have been working to share information and seek parent input regarding ways to address the Castle Pines area’s growing number of students.
After assessing enrollment figures and parent feedback forms, the District expects to announce by mid-February any changes to the 2005-2006 calendars of Buffalo Ridge and Timber Trail Elementary Schools. Options that parents could comment upon included:
Keeping Buffalo Ridge on a four-track system and converting Timber Trail to the same.
Adding mobile units to Timber Trail or, in BRE’s case, using the mobiles that currently house science kits as classrooms.
Sending sixth graders of one or both schools to Rocky Heights Middle School.
Douglas County Executive Director of Schools Annette Fante stated that at this time, “we are in a conversation. We have made no decision of any kind.”
Fante, assisted by principals from both Timber Trail and Buffalo Ridge Elementaries, led meetings in December and January to answer questions about the potential changes to the schools’ calendars. In addition, Rocky Heights principal Pat Dierberger spoke at the January 20th meeting about the strengths of the middle school.
At this time, enrollment at Buffalo Ridge is about 616 students, with 645 projected for 2005-2006. Timber Trail’s projection for the 2005-2006 year is 620 students.
About 15% of the projected homes in the schools’ areas remain to be built. The CPN Master Association has provided sales projections to the District’s Planning staff during the growth assessment process.
The remaining homes in BRE’s feeder area will be built in Castle Pines Village, and likely will generate fewer elementary students than the homes being built in the Timber Trail feeder area.
Capacity at each school is between 510 and 550. The District’s currently recommended tactic for handling growth is the four-track system, in conjunction with mobile classrooms. Four-track, also known as year-round, is based on 170 students per track.
The recently approved charter school, the American Academy at Castle Pines, is projecting an enrollment of 360 when it opens in 2005. The final numbers will not be available until registration closes in mid-February. The charter school is drawing interest from the entire county and it is not known yet how many students will be transferring from CPN area schools.
A flurry of written questions was presented during the meetings. Some of those questions and answers follow.
What is the ratio of staff to students in the District?
The District strives for a ratio of 26:1 in the upper grades, and 23:1 in the primary grades. Doug Hartman, of the District’s Human Resources Department, reminded parents that the ratios are guidelines and are not absolutes.
Will the modified kindergarten schedule change next year?
The District is not sure, but does try to prioritize families spending time together.
How will bus routes be affected?
The buses will be increased as needed to accommodate students. Beginning in 2005-2006, routes will no longer combine middle and high schoolers on the same bus, because next year, Rock Canyon High School will consist of grades 9, 10, and 11. School start times will change this fall with Rocky Heights beginning at 7:50 a.m. and Rock Canyon starting at 7:15 a.m.
In answer to other concerns, the District assured parents that if sixth grade moves to the middle school, Outdoor Education, graduation, and all other current sixth grade programs would move with the students.
The 6th- through 8th-grade middle school model is the norm in the Denver metro area, including at schools in Cherry Creek, Littleton, Jefferson County, Denver, and Colorado Springs. Both Fante and Dierberger said that they believe in the model because it provides sixth graders with more resources earlier in their school careers. However, added Fante, “moving sixth grades (to the Middle School) is not a panacea for growth issues.”
Some parents wondered if any decisions would automatically apply to all three Rocky Heights feeder elementaries-- Buffalo Ridge, Timber Trail, and Wildcat Mountain. (A fourth elementary, #39, is being built at Quebec and Glenstone and is scheduled to open next year).
Buffalo Ridge principal Barry Meigs replied that one of the good things about the District is that it “allows our schools to be different.” What works for one school community may not be effective or desired in another.
The enrollment projection slide show, school year calendars, and other information about the Douglas County School District can be found on-line at www.dcsdk12.org.