Douglas County School District is gearing up for the start of classes, with the upcoming year expected to be similar to last year in terms of educational priorities and preparing students for their futures.
Superintendent Erin Kane said she most looks forward to getting to have school buildings filled with students again after the summer break. Her focus is improving educational outcomes for all students.
“We’re really excited to welcome the kids back to school, it’s our favorite time of the year,” Kane said. “We’re so optimistic to move forward and focus on what all of us went into this business to focus on, which is the kids.”
Curriculum goals center around advancing literacy, developing essential skills and setting students up to be successful in college or the workforce. Kane noted there are not currently plans for curriculum changes and any proposals would have to be approved by the Board of Education.
“I don’t anticipate any sweeping differences,” Kane said.
District officials are still in the process of creating a universal pre-school program, which is a new requirement in Colorado after the passage of a law in April. Chalkbeat Colorado reports that no entities applied to the state to oversee Douglas County’s universal preschool by the initial June 24 deadline.
When it comes to COVID-19 policies, Kane said the district will follow the guidance of the local Douglas County Health Department, which recently was created in 2021 after the county split from Tri-County Health Department in 2020. The health department does not have any current health orders in place regarding COVID-19.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention still recommends anyone who tests positive for COVID-19 should isolate for at least five days and unvaccinated people should quarantine for five days after a COVID-19 exposure.
“We’ll just have the usual policies we have regarding any communicable disease,” Kane said. “We continue to have sick kids stay at home.”
Still Colorado’s third largest school district, enrollment sits at about 64,000 students, which is similar to the 2021-22 school year, but not yet back to pre-pandemic numbers. Kane said growth is uneven across the district, with an increasing need for new schools in Crystal Valley and Sterling Ranch, while the Highlands Ranch area sees fewer students.
“We’re seeing a lot of growth in various areas, but we’re also seeing decline in various areas, so we have a little of both,” she said.
Douglas County schools will employ around 8,500 people with more than 4,400 being licensed educators, which is similar to last year’s numbers as well, Kane said.
As of Aug. 2, the district’s career portal listed 496 open positions with 97 of them requiring a license.
“The last two years have been really rough on teachers,” Kane said, citing the stresses of the pandemic.
Currently, the district is in the process of potentially going to voters for a mill levy override to increase staff compensation and a bond for capital improvements, like constructing new neighborhood schools.
No specific language for a mill levy override or bond has been approved, but Kane is adamant about the need for additional funding to help keep Douglas County schools successful and competitive.
The Board of Education is expected to make a final decision on whether to ask for mill levy override and bond, as well as specific language, in August.
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