UPDATE: The district has come up with three community meetings to try to convince you about the bond. Please try to attend:
- August 13 @ 6pm – Garden Place
- August 15 @ 6pm – Morey
- August 16 @ 6pm – Kepner
We’ve been discussing the proposed bond and mill levy that will supposedly go before you, the voters, in November. The district is asking for $450 million in increased property taxes to pay for new construction, overwhelmingly for charter schools. As in, half a billion dollars.
The first draft of the proposal included only an ECE center, upgrades at the former Loretto Heights (now Colorado Heights University) for DSST and “heat mitigation” for our existing buildings (window blinds and classroom fans). You can see the final recommendations from the “citizen’s committee” cobbled together by the district to make recommendations to the board, which I’ve linked here. I should point out that there was almost no invitation to participate put to any resident of southwest Denver on this committee, and only one meeting was held in our community for discussion.
Yet, by the district’s own data, 12 of our elementary schools are above 100 percent capacity. We’re all familiar with the fact that Lincoln HS’s enrollment is capped, and Kepner and Henry are still very full. Additionally, Kaiser Elementary is still an open-walled school, which creates significant distraction from classroom to classroom.
I will be forthright: I do not support this bond proposal at this time. Not only does it offer very little to SW Denver in terms of school space or upgrades (even though we’re the second-largest subdistrict in terms of student population in the district), but it also increases the property tax burden on the section of town that is less able to take an increase. We have suffered through foreclosures and declining property values. The following is a recent district estimate of what this will mean in real dollars over the 30-year life span of the bond:
$225,000 residential – $12 per month, or $143 per year
$500,000 residential – $27 per month, or $318 per year
$500,000 commercial – $97 per month, or $1,160 per year
$1,000,000 commercial – $193 per month, or $2,320 per year
I don’t think it’s fair for our low-income and senior citizen homeowners to have to bear this burden for no real investment in SW Denver. This will affect renters, too, since a portion of monthly rent goes to offset the property owner’s tax burden.
At the end of the day, I believe we need at least two elementary school buildings, and we can repurpose existing vacant properties to help alleviate those associated costs. Not only will this eliminate blight in our neighborhoods, but repurposing those buildings will bring jobs…the ones that many of us in SW Denver are already doing.
I also believe that changing some of the boundaries and thereby relieving some of the pressure at our currently overcrowded schools can be a cost-effective solution to overcrowding. Therefore, I asked the district staff for some information about that, and their response is below.
What do you think?
You asked on Monday about the % of Henry boundary students who are choicing in, by boundary. There are about 220 students currently choicing into Henry from the Kepner and Grant boundaries (to the North). This is available here: http://www.dpsk12.org/
I also think I heard you mention something about why we couldn’t just shift boundaries (at the HS level in SW Denver) in order to address overcrowding at the high school level. Below and attached is a map of choice out by census tract at the high school level. Red means high rates of choice out. In seeing the high rates of choice out for the northern part of the Kennedy boundary, extending Kennedy’s boundary to the north will probably have limited impact (i.e. use space at Kennedy, relieve pressure at Lincoln). Put differently, we could extend Kennedy’s boundary to the north and some students may go but many would probably still want to choice to Lincoln (particularly because it would be closer). This map is located here:http://planning.dpsk12.org/wp-
Also, please let me know if you have any questions regarding the set of slides we put together to answer your prior questions on strategies to address overcrowding at SW elementary schools. Those slides are located here and were available for the BOE meeting on Monday: http://www.boarddocs.com/co/
dpsk12/Board.nsf/files/ 8WPMWE5D37B7/$file/SW% 20Denver%20Capacity% 20Solutions%202.pdf
As of last week, I was informed by district staff that the new version of the proposal includes building “cottages” at our existing school sites for ECE classrooms. This might be a promising way to relieve some of the overcrowding, and I’m waiting for more details.
This might also be the time for us to resurrect the idea of moving the Henry 8th graders to the Kennedy building, which was brought forth by community and school staff but rebuffed by the district.
The overriding issue is this: can SW Denver afford a half-billion dollar bond without a significant return on investment?
What do you think about the proposals before the board? As taxpayers and constituents, what would you like me to push for? How would you like me to vote?
Sound off in the comments!