Littleton Public Schools wants the community to know that the district loves kids, no matter where they live.
“We welcome all families, and we love all of our kids,” said Diane Leiker, LPS director of communications. “We educate the kids who come to us.”
Recent conversations about new residential development, and apartments in particular, have raised concerns that too many more people might strain the school district’s resources.
“(This project) will cram even more people into this area, where, I’m told, the students and perhaps even some of the teachers already hate the children who live in the Pinnacle,” Betty Harris told Littleton Planning Board members last month before they endorsed the proposed Meadows at Platte Valley complex. Harris has been active with the local Democratic Party and Citizens for Rational Development, a grassroots group organized againstcertain high-density projects proposed throughout the city.
If approved, the Meadows project will be built on the southeast corner of Mineral Avenue and Platte Canyon Road, near Wilder Elementary School. Board member Andrew Graham’s kids go there, and he thinks apartments could contribute to transience in the community. He worried thatpeople would temporarily move into a rental just to get into Wilder, making it permanently their home school, then move away.
But Leiker notes that wouldn’t be necessary, because school choice is already an option in LPS. Neighborhood kids are always given priority as far as enrollment, but if there is space available, others are welcomed — and that means children who live in Littleton or outside its borders.
“The in-district population is changing,” she said. “There are fewer students within our boundaries to serve.”
If enough children lived in LPS borders to fill its schools, it would be unnecessary to make up the roughly 20 percent difference — about 3,000 kids — with ones from outside the district. But since there aren’t, Leiker says, LPS is fortunate to be a great district that families want to be part of.
“Wilder is a wonderful school with outstanding students and very supportive parents,” said Principal Susan Dalton. “It makes no difference to us where our families live. We serve them all to the best of our ability, and we feel privileged to have the opportunity to do so.”
Indeed, LPS students outscore the state average by as much as 22 percentage points in state assessments, and it’s the only Denver-metro school district to be “Accredited with Distinction,” the highest academic accreditation rating given by the Colorado Department of Education. LPS high schools have the highest graduation rate and the lowest dropout rate of anyhigh schools in the metro area, and 82 percent of all LPS students are achieving at or above grade level.
Not only are all children welcomed, but the state money that comes with them is, as well. Each child equals more than $6,000 to a district — money that goes to pay teachers, buy books, prepare lunch and pretty much everything that goes along with educating children.
“We welcome new students,” said Leiker. “It stabilizes enrollment, and we all know funding is tied to enrollment. Growth is always welcome, and that can come to us in different ways.”
In addition to state money, the LPS community consistently votes to impose a property tax on itself to support the schools. Leiker explains that the state covers that for kids who come from outside LPS.
“That ensures that out-of-district students do not financially burden in-district taxpayers,” she said.
Homeowners aren’t the only ones who pay property tax; multifamily and commericial landowners do too, even if they don’t add kids to the district.
Developers with plans currently on the table have consistently said they’re not likely to attract too many people with kids. They’re targeting the ends of the spectrum — young professionals and empty-nesters. Most of the units planned are one- and two-bedrooms, not themost practical for a family with kids.
But even if that turns out not to be the case, Leiker said the district is ready.
“Wilder could certainly accommodate more students in our attendance area,” agreed Dalton. “We would welcome that opportunity.”