On the Issues – Movin’ On Up! Jeffco 6th Graders head to Middle School!

In my conversations around Jeffco, I have heard a lot of questions about the transition of 6th graders to middle schools. Specifically, the questions have focused on why Jeffco decided to make this shift, what the total cost of the shift will be, and how our students with special needs will be supported in the transition. In this edition of On the Issues, we’ll address these questions.


In Jeffco, we have a variety of grade configurations. Some communities transitioned to a 6-8 grade model years ago. Others use a K-8 and 9-12 model or a K-6 and 7-12 configuration, and some are organized in K-6 elementary, 7-8 middle school, and 9-12 high school.

Last school year, the decision was made to shift to an instructional model where the majority of our 6th grade students will attend 6-8 grade middle schools, which is the most common configuration nationally. Across the U.S., 75 percent of 6th grade students attend a middle school and surrounding Colorado school districts also use this model. There is no national movement to move 6th grade students back to elementary school.

Committees of Jeffco staff and parents at our middle schools have planned community events to inform and support students and families with this transition. We also have 6th grade transition information for families on our website.

Why did Jeffco decide to make this shift?

First and foremost, we want to provide more options and services for our kids! This model strengthens our schools’ abilities to customize student learning experiences. More 6th graders will now have the opportunity to take accelerated classes and pursue interests through expanded elective opportunities.

An additional year in middle school also helps us build strong school communities. Rather than transitioning in one year and out the next, three years in middle school allows relationships to form, the staff to get to know students and families, and the students to get to know each other.

Finally, our facilities played a key role in this decision. Speaking generally about Jeffco, our middle schools are under capacity, and many of our elementary schools are over capacity. This transition will move students out of over 100 temporary buildings and into schools.

How much is this transition going to cost?
In all, we are expecting a total cost of less (possibly much less) than $32 million. To date, the Board of Education has allocated $14.5 million in funding for additions to Drake and Dunstan Middle Schools. Jeffco Public Schools also planned for potential additional costs, and reserved an additional $2 million to cover any incidental expenses from the annual capital transfer (a fund for building and facilities needs).

It is possible additional funding needs may arise as we work to complete the transition district-wide. For example, additional classroom space may be needed at Summit Ridge, Ken Caryl, and Creighton Middle Schools. The estimated cost for additions to all three schools is $15.5 million. The Board of Education has not yet approved these additions.

The 6th grade transition will create some ongoing savings for Jeffco, as well. Specifically, the decommissioning or elimination of temporary classrooms can save $650,000 annually in ongoing maintenance and operations cost.

Will students with special needs be supported in the transition?
Yes! The vast majority of students with special needs will receive services in their middle school, just as they did in their elementary school.

Some of our students with more intensive special needs attend schools that host special programs called “centers” with specialized supports. Each year, in partnership with families, we analyze student learning needs to ensure the appropriate supports are in place. This transition will not change these important practices.

The big question…and next steps!
And the answer to what everyone has been wondering – yes, 6th graders will still go to our Outdoor Lab schools! We know Jeffco families, students, and staff value this great experience and 6th graders will absolutely get to continue this important Jeffco tradition.

I encourage parents and students to take advantage of opportunities to learn about their middle school by attending open house events and parent meetings at the elementary and middle schools. Your school’s principal is also a good source for information. Certainly, there are logistical issues to manage with this change – but the shift will offer exciting opportunities for our students, and we feel this brings great new options for Jeffco kids.

Check out the Parents’ Guide to 6th Grade Transition here.

There was a presentation made to the Board of Education Oct. 19 on the 6th Grade Move-Up. The meeting was streamed live; the 1-hour mark is where the 6th grade move-up discussion begins

11 thoughts on “On the Issues – Movin’ On Up! Jeffco 6th Graders head to Middle School!

  1. So which is true? 6th grade move will cost $67 million as the 2016 bond requested or $32 million? What are Creighton, Ken Caryl and Summit Ridge choice in families supposed to do when their elementary school no longer has 6th grade but they can’t go to these high demand middle schools? Will 6th grade GT kiddos go to Ken Caryl and Creighton and before others so there are 60 6th graders and 540 7th and 8th graders, how will that work?, Talk about not good for GT kiddos! And for the 30% of families that would have been able to go to Manning which now won’t have that choice what exactly are those families to do? How will elementary students in title one schools who have about an extra $1000 in a title school, get similar services in a non title one middle school? And for our families with students on the spectrum, exactly which middle schools will have center based programs with highly trained staff equivalent to the rock star Betty Adams team? And you talk about the savings but how about the increase in costs to support the additional specials? How will the 60% – 70% of kids who are behind get the extra literacy hours they will miss going to the middle school model? How many excellent teachers will be gone because they have to personally pay for the “content specialist” rating? And in which public meeting did the board approve the MOU which pays teachers $500 if they tell the district they are leaving before Dec? And in which public meetings was that MOU negotiated as require by law?

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    1. Hi Ms. Boggs,

      Thank you for engaging in this discussion. The transition of our sixth grade students to the middle schools is indeed complex. I welcome the opportunity to provide factual, accurate information to our community as we move forward with this endeavor.

      As your comment/statement had multiple parts, I have broken it down into questions to provide clarity in responding.

      Q: 6th grade move will cost $67 million as the 2016 bond requested or $32 million?

      Less than $32 million. The bond request was based on the 2016 Master Plan, which is a multi-phase, multi-year capital program. The proposed work at Bell and Oberon in the Master Plan (two middle schools cited for major investment and assumed basis for the $67MM figure) is to address modernization of 50+ year old facilities. According to the Plan, these facilities are necessary and capable of serving the overall needs of the district. However, a multi-million-dollar modernization is not necessary to support the 6-8 transition. Bell and Oberon have the capacity to support the additional grade with minimal renovation and a small addition to the Bell cafeteria. The $32MM is the estimated maximum amount of capital necessary for the reconfiguration in those articulation areas currently K-6, 7-8. The larger number you cite would include the facilities modernizations, which we are not executing at this time.

      Q: Will 6th grade GT kiddos go to Ken Caryl and Creighton and before others so there are 60 6th graders and 540 7th and 8th graders, how will that work?, Talk about not good for GT kiddos!

      But GT students will have continuity of services. To provide this continuity, GT 6th grade students are currently being served at Ken Caryl Middle School this school year and will be served at both Ken Caryl and Creighton Middle Schools next school year. This allows for acceleration in math and other areas as needed for these students. This is similar to the STEM acceleration that included 6th grade students at Deer Creek a few years ago and the inclusion of some but not all 6th grade students at Bell and Falcon Bluffs Middle schools. Students have experienced success in all of these situations, and parents are appreciative of the opportunities the middle school environment provides for their 6th grade students.

      Q: And for our families with students on the spectrum, exactly which middle schools will have center based programs with highly trained staff equivalent to the rock star Betty Adams team?

      Secondary center-based programs are currently at Arvada K-8, Wayne Carle, Creighton, Deer Creek, Sobesky, Alameda and Jefferson high schools. All of our programs have highly trained staff serving students. As students progress through various types of center programs at the elementary level (ASD, SED, SSN), our staff works to support them in continually moving towards increasing levels of independence, both academically and behaviorally. By the time middle school arrives many students are ready to transition into regular classroom settings or classes run by learning specialists, with appropriate supports, instead of remaining in more intensive center programs. As always, student supports are driven by needs defined in the IEP process. If a student still needs center level supports at the middle level then that is what we provide. At this level, students with all types of needs, including ASD, are supported in SSN III programs. There is an ASD specialized middle school program housed at Sobesky. We review all programs each year to ensure we are leveraging resources in the most efficient and effective manner, and if our configurations are meeting student needs.

      Q:How will the 60% & 70% of kids who are behind get the extra literacy hours they will miss going to the middle school model?

      Students will receive literacy instruction through core English Language Arts classes, literacy electives and additional intervention time through literacy support classes based on student need. Schools also focus on incorporating literacy across content areas in addition to core ELA instruction. Middle school principals, in collaboration with their Transition Advisory Committees comprised of their articulation area teachers and parents, are planning specifically for sixth grade literacy instruction, tapping into best practices embraced already at other middle schools and other grade levels. Students will receive literacy instruction based on their needs in middle school, just as they did in elementary school.

      Q: How will elementary students in title one schools who have about an extra $1000 in a title school, get similar services in a non title one middle school?

      As our 6th graders move from the elementary to the middle level, we will support all students including our students who qualify for free lunch coming from elementary schools with title dollars. Student based budgeting provides an at-risk factor so that a school receives additional dollars based on the number of free and reduced lunch students. Those at-risk dollars will follow students to the middle school. Additionally, title budgets will be adjusted next year to provide supports for students at all levels.

      Many of our Title I elementary schools currently feed into a Title I middle school, including those in the Wheat Ridge articulation area and Arvada K-8. And, as in years past, students who move from a Title I elementary school to a non-Title I middle school will continue to receive necessary supports to help them be successful.

      Q: What are Creighton, Ken Caryl and Summit Ridge choice in families supposed to do when their elementary school no longer has 6th grade but they can’t go to these high demand middle schools?

      Our families will continue to have great choices in Jeffco. The three schools mentioned in the question – Creighton, Ken Caryl and Summit Ridge – have already completed or are in the Design Advisory Group (DAG) phase, looking and building additions to accommodate historical enrollment trends. The DAG makes decisions based on the facility needs in order to accommodate both students who live in the neighborhood school boundary area and students who have traditionally choice enrolled into these schools. We will monitor choice enrollment requests and plan accordingly, with the goal of honoring existing and future choice enrollment patterns. Some of our families who utilize choice enrollment for these areas listed reside in the Alameda articulation area, which remains a K-6, 7-12 configuration.

      Q: And for the 30% of families that would have been able to go to Manning which now won’t have that choice what exactly are those families to do?

      But Manning families will have that choice. Currently, Manning has 442 students serving 7th and 8th grades with no wait list. Manning is planning for 225 student enrollment at each of the three grade levels – sixth, seventh and eighth – in 2018 – 2019 for a total anticipated enrollment of 675. These plans should meet the consistent student choice enrollment patterns at Manning.

      Q: How many excellent teachers will be gone because they have to personally pay for the content specialist rating?

      We don’t believe any will be gone because of this issue. Human Resources will reimburse teachers for passing a Praxis exam and gaining in-field qualifications, including the nominal fee for the on-line practice exams. HR will also reimburse teachers who add a content-specific endorsement to their license. These are funded through a reprioritization of HR’s existing allocated budget.

      District Human Resources staff are also implementing a number of initiatives to ensure excellent teachers can compete for positions in the Middle Schools, and others will have a job at their elementary school if that is what they prefer.

      Q: And you talk about the savings but how about the increase in costs to support the additional specials?

      We do not anticipate any additional dollars being required through this transition. The budget team is developing school level budgets, adjusting for the transition of our 6th grade classrooms to middle schools, and we are using regular staffing processes to make sure all our schools have the specials coverage they need.

      Q: And in which public meeting did the board approve the MOU which pays teachers $500 if they tell the district they are leaving before Dec? And in which public meetings was that MOU negotiated as require by law?

      District staff are authorized to use Memorandums of Understanding with our employee associations to the extent the MOU clarifies language in the negotiated agreement, or addresses strategic business needs.

      The $500 early notification payment is a critical part of a strategic transition. It allows our elementary school principals to know, prior to the staffing season, what capacity they have to continue to employ the contracted teachers in their buildings.

      Proposition 104 requires discussions by school board members regarding collective bargaining negotiations and employment contract negotiations be open to the public. These circumstances do not exist with this situation as clarifying an existing contract does not fall under the scope of Proposition 104.

      Thanks again for the opportunity to respond to your questions. Now that you have better information, I’ll be counting on you to help in accurately informing our community on this issue.

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  2. Dr. Glass, your letters and postings suggest Jeffco will only spend $32 million on additions or construction to 5 (Drake, Dunstan, Summit Ridge, Ken Caryl, & Creighton) of the 35+ middle schools in Jeffco. However, they don’t mention the costs that will come from the construction that will happen to Oberon Middle School on 72nd just east of Simms. My neighbor’s children go to VanArsdale Elementary, which is a feeder school to Oberon. She was at a meeting where Tara Pena, the principal at Oberon, just spoke this past Wednesday night to parents, teachers, and an administrator of VanArsdale about the architect’s plan to expand Oberon from its current capacity size of 761 to 900 students in order to prepare for the 6th graders moving up. I’m assuming that the construction won’t be free and will add cost to Dr. Glass’s $32 million estimate. I also wonder what other middle schools in the district will need construction that have not been mentioned in these articles?

    Please let us know about the plans and funding for the other middle schools such as Oberon, so we know the true total planned cost.

    Thank you.

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    1. Hi Ms. Mohr,
      Thank you for engaging in this discussion.
      Jeffco does not have 35+ middle schools. The district has a has a total of seventeen middle schools including four already at 6-8 configuration. We have five K-8 schools and we also have two high schools with grades 7-8 (Alameda and Jefferson). For the fall of 2018, eleven middle schools with a 7-8 grade configuration and one K-8 will transition to accommodate 6th graders. Three more will transition by the fall of 2019.
      The north area continues to have residential growth and, over time, the development plans currently in the design process are intended to address that. Development Plans for Arvada K-8, Bell, Oberon and Summit Ridge are in the early design stage. The schedule indicates this design work will be complete in December 2017. Plans and cost estimates for the proposed work will be available at that time.
      Current enrollment projections do not indicate a need for additional permanent square footage or seats at middle schools, other than the five mentioned in your post, to accommodate the transition of sixth grade students to the middle schools.. Oberon has the capacity to support the additional grade with minimal renovation, but some changes are necessary. Dollars have been set aside in the capital reserve budget to cover the costs of this renovation. These monies are included in the $32 million dollar figure.
      Thank you for your questions!

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  3. Hello Dr. Glass,

    Thank you for this post. My son will transitioning to Oberon Middle School next year. I understand that there will be a plan and cost estimates available in Dec. 2017 to indicate the renovations needed to accommodate the increase in enrollment.
    As I read through your post and the comments, I read that Oberon was expected to have some modernization work done as part of a Master Plan. If I am reading this correctly, I see that Jeffco is no longer going to execute the facilities modernizations in lieu of undergoing work to add more space for the increase in enrollment. If I understand that right, I am wondering what modernizations will be sacrificed at Oberon?

    Thank you in advance,
    Jen Baichi

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    1. Thanks for your question, Jen.

      Oberon was slated to have modernization improvements as part of the facilities master plan, which would have been paid for if the recent bond had passed. As it did not, we are not able to execute that currently. If we were to move on facilities improvements across the district as detailed in the facilities master plan, that would involve hundreds of millions of dollars. Oberon will receive some improvements in common areas and improvement of the cafeteria to accommodate the 6th grade move-up.

      I appreciate the opportunity to address your concerns and please let me know if you need additional information.

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  4. I’ll follow your lead and separate the responses.
    1) The cost – I would point you to the June 16, 2016 board docs presentation of the facility master plan. (page 14) The $67 million for the 6th grade transition included $20 million to add 8 classrooms and renovate Oberon, $2.5 million to add 4 classrooms at Manning and $2.5 million to add 4 classrooms and renovate Bell. So either those were actually not needed additions or the current estimates are inaccurate; both can’t be true.
    2) GT 6th grade students only ones to move to Creighton and Ken Caryl – Clearly we are not communicating with the same parents. Those that I am speaking to are very worried that their GT 6th graders will be the only 6th graders in a middle school with 600 7th and 8th grade students. We all know bullying is much more prevalent in middle schools. It is so interesting that your perspective is parents are appreciative that the district is providing the appropriate academic experience needed by students as that should be a given.
    Equating GT kids being forced to move to middle school with either the Deer Creek or Falcon Bluffs and Bell moves is hardly a relevant comparison. Parents moving their students to Deer Creek for STEM was a choice it was not necessitated by not being able to stay in an elementary school. And Falcon Bluffs and Bell took all the 6th graders from an elementary school (Shaffer and Mitchell), so in none of those cases was there a small group of students forced into a middle school. But my question was how is it good for GT kiddos to be the only 6th graders in a middle school? What student achievement increases do you expect? How will you facilitate the GT 6th graders staying connected to their 6th grade peers?
    3) Students on the Spectrum – So will 6th grade students on the Spectrum be moving to Creighton next year? I would highly encourage you to go back and listen to public comment at all of the regular school board meetings over the last year. At nearly every one of those meetings parents of students on the Spectrum have told the board (and your staff) that in fact many of their students are not ready to to be integrated into classrooms as you portend. And in fact to suggest Sobesky as a solution for the every day education of most students on the spectrum is either a lack of understanding of the services and students served at Sobesky or the needs of students on the spectrum. You need look no farther than the West Ed report (try the April 21, 2016 board meeting) or the Colorado Department of Education Corrective Action Plan to understand that IEPs in Jeffco don’t outline what students actually need. So again what will change that will ensure students on the spectrum have the services they need in middle school?
    4) Literacy hours – so are you saying the 50% of students not meeting grade level expectations in English Language Arts will get the equivalent literacy hours that they would have received in elementary schools? If that is the case and 50% of students will essentially have an elementary school model in middle school why spend $32 (or $67) million to add the capacity needed to make the move? That is $2500 – $5000 in one time bonuses that could be given to each staff member.
    5) Title dollars – Could you please explain what you mean by “Additionally, title budgets will be adjusted next year to provide supports for students at all levels.” I was not aware the board had made budget decision, so could you please help us understand that thought?
    And according to the list on the district’s web site there is only one title one middle school to which 6th grade will be moved, Everitt. All other middle schools which will be getting 6th grade are not title one schools and that likely won’t change with the addition of 6th graders next year, so how will that extra $1000 that title one students in elementary schools receive follow students to a non title one middle school? And as you know SBB dollars don’t include title one dollars so saying the SBB dollars will provide title funds doesn’t seem an accurate portrayal of how title funds flow.
    6) High demand middle schools – I’d appreciate a more direct answer. The last numbers showed about 30% of families at Creighton, Ken Caryl and Summit Ridge choice in. If you are not in those articulation areas so your neighborhood elementary school no longer has 6th grade and your choice as a family is Creighton, Ken Caryl or Summit Ridge in 2018-19 what is your family expected to do?
    7) Manning – According to the facilities 2016-17 summary of findings (page 40), the applied capacity at Manning is 439 students. Could you please explain how Manning will be able to support 675 students?
    8) Excellent Teachers – What is the expected costs HR anticipates having to reimburse for the on-line practice exams and the added content-specific endorsement?
    9) Added Costs – I apologize for not asking a clear question. I will try again. Is it more expensive to educate students in Jeffco’s middle or elementary school? What is the average expense for a student in a middle vs elementary school?
    10) Prop 104 actually requires any meeting of a board of education, or any meeting between any representative of a school district and any representative of employees, at which a collective bargaining agreement is discussed to be open to the public. It does not just cover board members, and clearly the MOU is part of the collective bargaining agreement so I will ask again in which public meeting was the MOU discussed? And you may have missed the second part of that question at which public board meeting did the board vote to approve the MOU.
    Thanks for answering.

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    1. Ms. Boggs,

      The district staff presented full project information about the middle school transition at the October 19, 2017, Board of Education meeting. I would encourage you to access that information. The Board of Education and the district team are focused on a smooth, quality transition with a focus on Jeffco’s future.

      I feel that we are engaged in a “fact war” about the 6th grade transition, ostensibly timed to coincide with the upcoming board election. In this fact war, I present certain information, you counter that with other information and comments disguised as questions, and I then further counter with other information.

      While I am happy to provide responses, I’m not entirely sure our long-winded exchanges are particularly helpful or interesting to anyone except us.

      The 6th grade move up is complicated and involves a number of key decisions to successfully execute. The decision itself also has pros and cons (several of which you have identified in your list of questions).

      However, on the balance, the previous administration and the board felt that the pros outweighed the cons and directed us to move forward. Now, as the new superintendent, it is my responsibility to see that that change through successfully, and that is exactly what we will do.

      So, let’s get to the bottom line: this is happening. Our work now should be focused on making sure it successful. My attention certainly will be focused on that end.

      Out of respect for the time you took in crafting your numerous questions, I have provided responses to them. You can access those here: http://bit.ly/2gPIrVN

      Thanks for taking the time to read this, and my responses.

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  5. Dr. Glass:

    I am so excited about the move of 6th graders to middle school, as I found the move to be extremely positive in 1996 when I served as principal at West Jefferson Middle. I am also thrilled that Marcia Anker is providing her vast expertise in developing the plan and engaging the community. She is an amazing educator and person.

    You and Marcia have so many great people giving advice and sharing their experiences, so I know that I most likely do not have anything new to add regarding the transition of sixth graders and their families. As I reflect on our process at WJMS, there was one unintended consequence that I wanted to share. We worked so hard at communicating our school values and programs to smoothly transition 6th graders, and we unintentionally did not put as much focus on our incoming seventh grade class. They were dropped in as the “middle child”, and did not feel as connected to the process as our 6th graders were. We tried to have the same transition meetings and programs with both grades, and the 7th graders clearly needed more attention and a different kind of orientation, as they sometimes felt invisible throughout their 7th grade year. We saw more issues with academic struggles and behavioral issues with the 7th graders that first year, and I believe we would have benefitted from developing stronger relationships with those students from the start.

    Thanks for all of your energy and expertise. Jeffco is lucky to have you!

    Jean Kelley

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