The aging Arapahoe High School in Centennial is among the facilities that will be getting a new look from the Littleton Public Schools Long-Range Planning Committee. The team of stakeholders will be studying nearly every aspect of district operations for the next 18 months. Photo by Peter Jones
BY PETER JONES
What do you get when you cross a landlocked suburban community with aging school buildings, forecasts of increasing traffic congestion and a static older population?
You get the new Littleton Public Schools Long-Range Planning Committee, which is striving to figure it all out within the next 18 months or so.
“We need to look at the district as a whole,” explained Diane
Doney, the assistant superintendent of business services who is spearheading this group of 15 community stakeholders. “We need to look at transportation and enrollment. We need to look at our buildings. Are they serving the purpose they were built for as effectively as when they were built? What’s this district going to look like 10 years from now?”
If all goes as planned—in the short range—Doney expects to have an approximation of the long-range 10-to-15-year answers by the end of 2018, thanks to this volunteer group of residents, parents, former LPS committee members, nonprofit community leaders and representatives from neighboring tax-supported districts.
But what about those on the frontlines with the greatest day-to-day professional stake?
“I think as we move forward, we’ll definitely get the teachers’ voice into the committee, whether that’s with focus groups or some other way,” Doney added.
Maybe even students will have a say-so at some point in the process.
The idea for a big-picture study of the future germinated last year on the LPS Board of Education, which eventually assigned Superintendent Brian Ewert to form the committee and have it report back to the board periodically.
“In Colorado, as fast as we’re growing, we really need to pay attention to what’s happening in the community around us,” Doney said. “We also need to be responsive to the changes of how we deliver education to students and make sure we’re doing the best job we can.”
The committee, whose work is already underway, plans to meet at least once a month, with its members responsible for homework in between. Paid consultants will also be involved.
Development and traffic are two of the committee’s first top bullet points.
“We have schools on both sides of Santa Fe Drive. We have all the development that’s happening down in Douglas County. We’re looking at all that,” Doney said.
For example, one concern might be how the district should accommodate students who live further away from school, even as empty-nesters stay in their longtime homes near the same schools. For the most part, Littleton’s light rail stations will not be much help—so will increased traffic be a new barrier to students’ on-time arrival?
“We’ve got self-driving cars on the horizon, so how packed are our roads going to be, and what’s that going to look like?” Doney said.
What’s more, when kids do get to school, will the half-century-old buildings be ready for optimum learning, much less full compliance with the Americans With Disabilities Act?
“As you can imagine with 50-year-old buildings, some of our schools are not as accessible as we’d like them to be,” Doney said.
The assistant superintendent, who doubles as chief financial officer, is optimistic that the committee will identify the important questions, if not all the answers.
“Littleton is a wonderful place because we have such community involvement in our schools,” she said. “It was not hard to find volunteers to serve on this committee, so I am anxious to see what we come forward with.”
The committee’s first presentation to the board is expected in November.
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