Speech to School Board

Text of Sen. Rachel Zenzinger speech to Jefferson School Board

Feb. 9, 2017

Peck, Swanson Elementary Schools Should Remain Open

My name is Rachel Zenzinger. I am a neighbor, a Jeffco parent, and I represent North Jefferson County in the State Senate. I sit on the Education Committee and every day see our budget tear at our promise to educate our children. So I speak to you to today with great respect for the work you do and the challenges you face. In my work, I face problems every day where I accept that there are few choices; but leaving our students stranded can never be a choice. We must take the time to look for another way.

An outpouring like this one here today is evidence that we have a real community invested in the issue. A real community is the first and best foundation for building a world class school. It is a resource that we can build upon, or, I suppose, we can turn our backs on schools like Peck and Swanson and lose not only a few buildings but entire neighborhoods. Our schools are our families, and that can be a hard thing to rebuild. Some things to consider:

–My Senate District 19, which consists of Arvada and Westminster, have already seen two school closures in recent years (Zerger and Russell Elementary).

–Closing these two additional schools will have a greater-than-average negative impact on students with disabilities (specifically autism), students designated as “free-and-reduced lunch,” and communities that lack the resources to adjust to this community deficit.

–Research on school closings have found small, persistently negative effects on the displaced students.

–Other research suggests school closings may hinder, and rarely help, students’ academic progress.

–When schools leave, neighborhoods empty out. Who would stay or move into a neighborhood that doesn’t even have a school in which parents and community members can invest their energies?

–School closings do save money. The majority of savings are derived from personnel reductions such as principals and assistants, clerical staff, and food service and custodial employees. However, these savings are offset to some degree by expenses such as maintaining vacant building sites, moving property, and transitioning and supporting students. Closings may also lead to unexpected costs.

I do not have time to lay out all the good reasons we should keep Peck and Swanson open AND give them the support they need to thrive. But I can tell you that these schools deserve that time and a lot more consideration. The budget might tie our hands, but we still have our ears, minds, heart and voices. Let’s use them to do better.