School District Faces Tough Cuts in Wake of Election
by Lisa Crockett
Douglas County School District (DCSD) is facing a budget shortfall of $16 million in coming years, which will likely result in continued overcrowding, larger class sizes and an inability to upgrade technology.
“Election Day was a tough one for us in Douglas County School District,” said DCSD Superintendent James Christensen. “Our families, staff and hundreds of volunteers worked so hard to educate our community about the value of our school district. We want to thank them for their tireless work. The votes did not come in in our favor. Clearly, we are extremely disappointed.”
At the present time, Castle Pines North’s Timber Trail Elementary operates on a year-round, four-track calendar, one of the strategies used in the District to help schools accommodate overcrowding. Buffalo Ridge Elementary currently operates on a traditional schedule, though any elementary school in the district is subject to a four-track calendar once its enrollment threshold is crossed. Student enrollment in DCSD is expected to rise by 2,000 students per year for the next five years.
“Our planning department is analyzing student enrollment data to formulate growth projections for the 2009-10 school year,” said DCSD Chief Operating Officer, Steve Herzog. “It appears several current elementary schools may need to move back to four-track, year-round calendars. Not only will we not be building new schools, but we also have less resources available to move mobile classrooms to sites in need of additional space. We are also concerned with some middle and high school overcrowding situations and will be meeting with building principals and leaders from the Learning Services Division to strategize methods for providing adequate space.”
Additional funding, which would have come from
ballot measures “3A” and “3B,” would have allowed for construction of ten new elementary schools, repairs, updates renovations and/or expansions at almost 50 other schools and sites, and improved technology tools and infrastructure for all schools. Without this funding, only two schools remain to be completed from the 2006 bond. Cimarron Middle School in Parker and Elementary #47 in Castle Rock will be the last schools constructed for DCSD’s growing student population until additional funding is available.
Though budget constraints will curtail expansion of facilities in the district, Christensen remains optimistic about the future for students in DCSD.
“We will continue to be a great system,” said Christensen. “We will continue to positively impact students in our community to the best of our ability. However, we may pursue these goals in a much different way than we have in the past.”
As of press time, District officials were uncertain as to whether a school funding measure would appear on next year’s ballot.
“We have received several calls and e-mails from supportive citizens who would like to make voluntary financial donations to help the District,” said Herzog. “I have directed these inquiries to either their local school principal or the Douglas County Educational Foundation to learn about means to help.”
American Academy, a Charter School temporarily located in Lone Tree, plans to open its doors this fall in their new facility on the Lagae Ranch in Castle Pines North. The District is hopeful that the new school will help relieve current over crowding issues in CPN. Charter schools build their own facilities without local tax payer funds provided by the DCSD.
Enrollment for the K-8 charter school is by lottery only. CPN families get more “weight” in the lottery. The deadline for enrollment applications is January 31. Visit www.americanacademyk8.org for more information.