Recommendations for Early Childhood Education and Elementary Schools

Board considers multi-year plan for early childhood education and elementary schools

On January 6, 2021, the Littleton Public Schools Board of Education heard a summary of the current state of LPS early childhood and elementary programs, a projection for the future, and a plan moving forward.

LPS has been carefully monitoring elementary enrollment for several years. The LPS Long Range Planning Committee also conducted an in-depth review of enrollment patterns across the district as part of its work over the last three years regarding the need to replace aging facilities over time and the resulting boundary changes. The data tells us that enrollment, particularly at the elementary level, continues to decline within the district. 

young students using tablets in the classroomOver the past 15 years or so, LPS enrollment has declined by about 3,000 students, usually at the rate of 75 to 100 students per year. LPS has always had enrollment challenges for a number of reasons. 

  • This is a nice place to live, and people tend to stay here long after their children have graduated from high school, meaning the housing turnover is slower than in other places in the metro area. 
  • The district is landlocked, meaning there isn’t a lot of new home construction or room for growth. 
  • The price of housing continues to increase, which makes it increasingly difficult for young families to live here. 

Then, the pandemic hit, and more families than usual across the district, the state and the nation moved or chose different education options. This year, LPS is down an additional 700 students from its pre-pandemic projections. 

Administration Recommendations
Given these variables, the Board discussed a multi-year plan recommended by administration to optimize the use of district resources and facilities to meet student learning needs while operating the district effectively and efficiently. Key points of the recommendations include:

  • When possible, maintain north/south transportation boundaries to avoid crossing arterial roadways.
  • Centralize early childhood education services into one facility specifically designed for preschool-age learners.
  • Move forward with plans to build a third elementary with capacity to serve 4 sections of each grade level (4 rounds) using premium 2018 Bond funds.
  • Consolidate small schools into existing schools to support 3- and 4-round elementary schools where possible.

The plan moves LPS from having 13 elementary schools – several of which will be 1- or 2-round schools next fall – to having 10 elementary schools by the fall of 2023. Most if not all 10 schools would be more robust and efficient 3- or 4-round elementary schools. This size of elementary school is ideal under the current school funding mechanism because larger schools allow for funding for robust staffing, including small group instruction, intervention, and other support services; office staff including a principal and an assistant principal or dean; and various specialists – all of which provide students with the people and programs to best support them. Preschooler on the playground, smiling

  • In December 2019, the Long Range Planning Committee recommended the Board consider combining the East and Moody school communities into one new school. Doing so would further the vision of replacing old, failing buildings with new ones while combining two small elementary schools into a larger school that better meets student needs.The school could be built using 2018 bond premium dollars. The current recommendation further details that it would be a 4-round school, possibly using the same design as the new Dr. Justina Ford Elementary School. Using an existing design significantly reduces construction time and design costs.
  • Combine small Peabody and Twain schools with existing schools for the 2022–2023 school year.
  • Combine The Village North with The Village at Highland for one early childhood education center for the district located at Highland.
  • Repurpose East, Peabody, Twain, and The Village North, partnering whenever possible with community agencies for the betterment of family services in our community. Administration recommends that the Board not sell any schools but repurpose them for LPS or for the community. It is possible that our community’s demographics could change in the next 10 years and would require us to re-open another elementary school.

“LPS has made sacrifices over the past 15 years to keep some of our smallest elementary schools open. But, some of them are just too small now and can no longer offer the kinds of opportunities all LPS students should have,” said LPS Superintendent Brian Ewert. “Keeping small schools open has substantial long-term consequences financially for the entire district. Principals say that larger 3- and 4-round schools are best for kids. The good news is our new schools, being built thanks to the 2018 bond, are strategically placed in our community where school consolidations need to happen.” 

The Charge of the Long Range Planning Committee
The Board has asked the Long Range Planning Committee to convene for a brief time this spring. The Committee's charge is to vet and validate administration’s recommendations as follows:Elementary students and teacher

  • To place the new elementary school for the combined East/Moody community on the Moody campus. The new school would open in the fall of 2023. (Moody students would relocate to a closed elementary school for the 2022-2023 school year during demolition and construction.)
  • To consolidate the Twain school community with an existing elementary school and close Twain after the 2021-2022 school year. 
  • To consolidate the Peabody school community with an existing elementary school and close Peabody after the 2021-2022 school year.
  • To consolidate the Village North with the Village at Highland for one robust early childhood education center centrally located within the district.

The Committee will engage with employees and community members throughout the spring to gather feedback to help inform the process. 

Administration asks the Board to determine the location for the recommended third elementary school by the end of March 2021.