One month after closure vote, uncertainty about what’s next for students at Pleasant View Elementary in Golden

One month after closure vote, uncertainty about what’s next for students at Pleasant View Elementary in Golden

Construction paper cards and hearts hang in the main hallway at Pleasant View Elementary in Golden. On them are messages from kids at another school, urging everyone to stay positive.

A letter from a Pleasant View student named Amber is pinned to the office wall. It’s a thank-you note for helping her get a good start to her education.

“I will miss you and I wish you did not have to close at all,” it reads.

One month after the Jeffco school board voted to close the school in a cost-cutting move, sadness is tinged with uncertainty. As the district and school leaders work on a transition plan, several questions remain unanswered, including where the school’s preschool will relocate and details about providing transportation and similar services to displaced students.

About 275 students attend Pleasant View. More than 80 percent qualify for free or reduced-price lunch, making it one of Jeffco’s poorer schools.

The school was built in 1950 and is in need of repairs the district can’t afford — one factor officials cited in recommending closure. The school board for Jeffco Public Schools voted in January to close Pleasant View after this school year and spare four other schools on the chopping block — at least for now.

Officials have developed a map with redrawn school boundaries near Pleasant View that the school board is expected to vote on Thursday night. About 77 students are expected to go to Shelton Elementary to the west and some 71 students would go to Welchester Elementary to the east.

For many students in the neighborhoods absorbed into two new school boundaries, their new route to school is no longer within walking distance — unless kids can walk for almost an hour and find a way to safely cross Interstate 70, U.S. Highway 6 or other large intersections.

The school’s center-basedprogram for students with special needs will move to Kyffin Elementary, district officials confirmed Tuesday.

Significantly, the district has not settled on a new home for Pleasant View’s preschool, one of the largest in the area. District staff declined to discuss locations they may be considering.

“They have to look at where there’s room, whether we want them in a building or a temporary module, whether they want to split up the group,” said Diana Wilson, spokeswoman for Jeffco Public Schools. “It’s a bunch of factors.”

A decision on where to open the preschool next year could still be more than a week away.

Parents also want to know how many services will follow their students. Some of those details also will take time to figure out, officials say.

Pleasant View students and parents have several resources currently, including a visiting therapy dog named Chance. Students earn school money and pay for their time to play with or walk Chance.

A nonprofit recently opened a food pantry in the school and has been providing sacks of food for the weekend to students who might not have enough to eat at home. The nonprofit that opened the pantry plans to expand at other area schools, but the timing is unclear.

Next year, to help connect families to outside resources, the district will hire a family liaison at both schools getting Pleasant View kids.

Pleasant View also serves free breakfast to all kids. Depending on the demographics of the students that end up enrolling at the two new schools, that service might also be provided there.

Pleasant View students and teachers also practice mindfulness, have a part-time counselor from the Jefferson Center for Mental Health, another counselor working with younger students using the Brain Wise program that focuses on decision-making skills, a part-time social worker and a teacher who spends her afternoons teaching social skills and responsibility to kids who need it.

The services have been added slowly in response to the changing needs of students at Pleasant View.

“Our families often feel marginalized and we do everything we can to get that label off,” said Pleasant View principal Janace Fischer. “We want our students to have as many strengths as any other students.”

When Jeffco school board members voted to close the school, they also asked the district to find a way to pay for mental health support to continue at the schools where students will move, for at least one year.

Welchester Elementary already has some mental health services through Jefferson Center for Mental Health.

“I think it’s going to be different but that doesn’t mean bad,” Fischer said. “We’ve been very thoughtful working through this.”

Part of the transition toward the end of the year will include sit-down meetings between leadership of the schools. At Pleasant View, because the school is so small, teachers and staff know a lot about each student. The goal will be to share some of that if it can help the new teachers work with the students.

“I feel really confident that the leadership and teachers will have that ability to meet their needs,” said Kathy Harrison, the director of Pleasant View’s preschool.

In the meantime, school leaders are encouraging everyone to stay strong. Parents will have meetings later this month to meet the teachers and leaders at the new schools. Students will tour the two schools they’ll move to later in the year.

“The thing I keep telling parents is change is hard, but you’ll get through it,” Harrison said. “Try to keep an open mind.”

As for students, their concerns have been about making new friends and where things like their class clocks or the fish tank will go. Those questions will get an answer too, Fischer said.

Originally posted on Chalkbeat by Yesenia Robles on March 7, 2017

Chalkbeat is a nonprofit news site covering educational change in public schools.

 

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Yesenia Robles, Chalkbeat Colorado

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