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Poudre School District Board Meeting - 10/10/23

by Matthew Liberati

See the full notes document here.*

A video recording of the meeting is available here.

Superintendent’s Report

PSD hired Superintendent Brian Kingsley on board recommendations in part to deal with financial and enrollment challenges impacting all 54 schools in the district. He stated he should have hit pause to educate the community on challenges of school consolidation. He is now proposing no school consolidation decisions are made during the current board meeting. He said any eventual changes won’t occur until the 25-26 school year. Evidenced by strong turnout from the public at this meeting, whatever path is chosen, everyone won’t be happy. Kingsley said one school should not be lobbying vs. another school.

Currently more than 1 in 3 students is participating in school choice. The district is committed to all students having equal access to high quality programs. Kingsley said the district has up to one billion dollars in district facility maintenance and improvement needs. The current budget allocates eight hundred thousand dollars a year to these issues.

Colorado allocates school funding using a 5-year average enrollment and overall funding is 43rd out of 50 states. The district uses a funding model based on current pupils enrolled. Kingsley explained that any local increases in property taxes results in lower contributions from the state, so the district will not receive a net benefit from higher local property tax revenue.

To maintain population, birth rates need to be 2.1 children per female of child bearing age. District birthrates are 1.09. District graduating classes are generally around 2,000 students. The current kindergarten class of PSD for this year has fewer than 1,600 students. There are more students in the upper grades than anticipated, but overall students are down 225 year to year. Kingsley described a complex picture as other areas of the district are still growing. Timnath middle/high school was supposed to be at 80% capacity in 2026. It is already at 80% capacity this year.

PSD charters have increased enrollment by 293 students over the last 3 years. In 2022 over 1,000 students from outside the district chose PSD schools.

Elementary schools in the district were generally designed for 450 students. As fewer students attend, the district subsidizes funding from 2 percent to over 12 percent. Kingsley said most of the elementary schools in the district are under capacity. Secondary schools are generally designed for 700-750 students. Almost all the secondary schools are below capacity and have subsidy funding from 5 percent to a high of 25 percent. The highest subsidy is in an outlier school with under 300 students.

Kingsley said that moving forward a steering committee will be created to have further discussions about enrollment, adjustment and consolidation issues.

These originally proposed changes were withdrawn from voting.

The first plan was based on the following facts: Polaris Expeditionary learning school has a waiting list for every grade from K-8. Many of the students are at Olander Elementary and Blevins Middle schools. Blevins is only using 40 percent of the total facility space. “These schools are competing with each other,” Kingsley said. The original idea proposed to join Polaris K-5 with Olander to become a system-wide school, and Polaris 6-12 to join with Blevins and become a system-wide school. Transportation to the schools would have been provided across the district.

Centennial and PCA were proposed to share one site at Centennial, but would have remained separate programs. Integrated Service Programs were also slated to combine into a permanent central location to save costs from having multiple leases around the district.

Changes await modification of attendance areas

Any changes would not go into effect until the 25-26 school year. PSD will gather input from students, staff and families, and then provide a recommendation to the board of education for feedback. Community feedback will also be sought before a final proposal is presented to the Board of Education.

Infrastructure studies in progress

Private company McKinstry has been hired to conduct infrastructure studies around three themes:

  1. Air conditioning ($200 million to $270 million cost estimate),

  2. Overall facility conditions and retro-commissioning ($600 million in maintenance over the next 10 years)

  3. Solar feasibility.

Additional schools may be necessary

Timnath's population has grown, and Timnath elementary is an older facility. It is anticipated that a new elementary school will be needed with an approximate cost of $80-100 million dollars. Also, Wellington and NE Fort Collins have grown and it is anticipated a new elementary school will be needed in the next 10 years in that area.

Community Comments

The public in attendance seemed aligned in disappointment about the lack of communication regarding the proposed changes, the lack of stakeholder involvement, and the aggressive timeline for the proposed changes. Comments showed a strong desire to better engage affected staff and families for more consensus in an eventual solution. Some suggested that trust was broken and will take time to be reestablished. One comment was that decisions can be made thoughtfully or quickly, but not both at the same time.

Specific concerns were raised about these points:

  • breaking up the K-12 self-contained structure of Polaris, where students mentor and cocreate across grade levels,

  • breaking up integrated services at Olander, and

  • social and emotional learning at Blevins.

Overall school population numbers and charter school numbers were questioned compared to data from the Colorado State Board of Education.

Board Members admit responsibility for Kingsley’s bold plan, and the public’s overall negative reaction

DJ Anderson, District A, comments

Mr. Anderson thanked the community for engagement, especially from students, and talked about the need to increase education funding in Colorado. He recognized the need for better communication. Staff and students are more important than buildings. Students with special needs were targeted for support first because they are traditionally thought of later, he explained. He will not be a board member after the November election.

Jessica Zamora, District G, comments

Ms. Zamora was supportive of the changes but recognizes community pushback. She is proud of the community for their passion and engagement.

Carolyn Reed, District E, comments

Ms. Reed apologized for not having better community engagement. She pledges that the community will be listened to moving forward.

Nate Donovan, District B, comments

Mr. Donovan thanked everyone for all their community engagement and stated that there will be disruptions for people directly impacted by changes. He will not be a board member after the November election.

Jim Brokish, District D, comments

Mr. Brokish stated parents generally worry about their kids and their school and its important but as a district board member the focus needs to be broadened to our district and our community.

Rob Petterson, District F, comments Mr. Petterson stated he has pushed leadership to address enrollment and financial concerns for a long time. He reiterated there are structural problems. One problem is 1,500 to 3,000 extra elementary seats (roughly six schools worth), and about 1,500 extra middle school seats (roughly two schools worth) that are not being used. Over the next 5-7 years the school population is forecast to decrease by 10 percent. That represents a $40 million budget reduction. That cannot be made up with administrative cuts, he said. He added that housing prices are high and younger families with young kids are less likely to move here. School choice is mandated by the state and charters can’t be closed. He supported the changes because they allow programs to continue and benefit additional students. Petterson summarized that every school believes they are unique and not everyone is going to be happy with the results. He will not be on the board in a month but said he will stay engaged and support more community engagement moving forward.

Kristen Draper, District C, comments

Ms. Draper stated that Kingsley was the first leader to make tough decisions around enrollment and financial issues. She maintained that the issue was impact vs. intent. Vulnerable students were selected first to ensure they have more support. She apologized for not communicating the “why?” and not conveying the sense of urgency for changes. She said she is committed to more community engagement moving forward, though the board will have to make tough decisions and further delays are not possible.

Superintendent Brian Kingsley comments

The superintendent promised to be more of a learner and listener. He recognizes different approaches work differently in different environments. The community deserves action and humility moving forward.

Other Matters: Bullying Prevention and Education Policy Gets First Reading

The entire community has a hand in limiting bullying and to “see something, say something.” Policy is being updated to reflect definitions in state law and model policy. Bullying happens when one side has power over another side. Harassment is based on a protected class race, sex, religion, class etc. Mandatory bullying training is in development. The general steps for bullying intervention:

  • an incident occurs

  • it is reported

  • an adult investigates

  • actions are checked against the code of conduct

  • education and restorative measures are taken

  • and follow-up is conducted.

The second reading of this policy is scheduled for Nov. 14.

Next Meeting

Oct. 24 at 6:30 p.m.

*Citizen Observers further the commitment of the League of Women Voters to its principle of Citizens Right to Know, however, we are not acting as journalists. Omissions and errors are possible. It is assumed that users of this information are responsible for their own fact-checking. This could include contacting a government clerk, conversing with an elected official or staff, and/or asking us to speak to the Observer who attended.

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