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This article marks the fifth and final story in reporter Christy Steadman’s series on Pleasant View Elementary School. When we started the series, the intent was to explore the school in depth, both its strengths, and ongoing struggles. But after the Jefferson County School District chose to close the school at the end of this year, the series became even more. The closure of any school can be difficult, both emotionally and logistically, and we have tried to share what that process has meant to the Pleasant View school community.
This article chronicles the last school day of Pleasant View. Our previous reporting on the school, including the first installment of this series, which won the Colorado Press Association’s statewide award for best education story of 2016, is available at www.goldentranscript.net.
The Jeffco Board of Education decided to close Pleasant View on Feb. 9 as a budget cut measure prompted by the November defeat of the district’s bond and mill levy proposals. The closure will save Jeffco schools $662,742 — money that will go toward the school board’s goal of improving salaries to attract and retain high-quality educators.
District officials cited low enrollment, which is the lowest since 2000, and aging building conditions as main reasons to close Pleasant View, but the school has endured many additional challenges. Built in 1950, it sits in a neighborhood that is struggling economically. It is a Title I school, which means more than three-quarters of its students are on free or reduced lunch, and a large number of students are homeless and transient. And because of the challenges, test scores have been low.
Next school year, Pleasant View students will attend Shelton, 420 Crawford St., or Welchester, 13000 W. 10th Ave., in Golden. Both schools are roughly three miles from Pleasant View, 15920 W. 10th Ave. Students requiring a special needs program may attend Kyffin Elementary School, 205 S. Flora Way, also in Golden.
Although it is too soon to know with accuracy how many students each school will get for the 2017-18 academic year, Shelton Principal Karen Brown and Welchester Principal Bethany Robinson each expect to have 60 to 70 new students.
Pleasant View’s preschool is also closing. Shelton Elementary will not be getting a preschool next year, but Welchester’s preschool — which is in its second year with one classroom that accommodates 16 students — will expand by one classroom and offer full- and half-day preschool.
The majority of Pleasant View’s teachers will be joining students at either Welchester or Shelton, and the others have obtained within the district.
Principal Janace Fischer will become principal at Wilmore-Davis Elementary School in Wheat Ridge.
Pleasant View’s textbooks and other educational tools will be divided equally among Shelton and Welchester. Anything extra will go to Rose Stein International Elementary in Lakewood or the new Three Creeks K-8 in Arvada. Desks, furniture and the rest of Pleasant View’s things will also be reallocated within Jeffco.
The district has no current plans for the building.
Dan Willard, 75, remembers the day he entered the fourth grade. The year was 1951. And Pleasant View Elementary was opening its doors for the first time.There used to be atrolley that picked up students who lived along South Golden Road to take them to the brand-new school, about half the size it is today.And he talked about his former teachers.“The teachers here have always sacrificed for the benefit of the students,” said Willard, a retired electrical engineer and longtime Golden resident. “They were here because they loved what they were doing. They cared about us. And in return, we appreciated them.”Sixty-six years later, Willard was among hundreds who came back to Pleasant View on May 23 — its last day to host students.During the closing ceremony, each attendee pinned on a different colored ribbon to represent his or her connection to the school: Students and alumni wore teal, family members royal blue. Current and retired staff members wore gold, school board representatives yellow stripes. School volunteers had a solid yellow ribbon, caring community members white.“This is the culminating event,” Principal Janace Fischer said, “to say goodbye to a school that is cherished.”• • •The Jeffco Board of Education decided Feb. 9 to close Pleasant View, citing low enrollment and aging building conditions among several reasons. The school has faced numerous challenges over its existence — a large homeless and transient student population, which contributed to low test scores. It also was a Title I school, which means more than three-quarters of its students were on free or reduced lunch.But despite these hardships, the school, which on its last days served just under 225 students, became the heart of Golden’s Pleasant View community — a hub where families could connect with each other, community resources and academics. The Action Center and the Golden Backpack Program partnered to launch the school’s Fresh Food Pantry, which gave parents weekly access to shop for fresh food. Golden Tutoring & Enrichment’s MATHrive, an extracurricular academic workshop to improve math skills, was available for free, thanks to a grant from the Golden Schools Foundation.And through a partnership with the National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL), professionals periodically visited Pleasant View and interacted with students. On the last day of school, NREL brought each student a new reading book.Sherrie Durfey, the school’s librarian and a special education para-professional, has struggled with the school’s closing. She has worked at Pleasant View for 15 years and knows all the students by name. She lives in the neighborhood and will still see some of the children every once in a while. But that doesn’t make it any easier to close the doors.“All of us have just been keeping ourselves busy to keep it off our minds,” Durfey said. “But as we lose the kids (today), it just gets harder.”In teacher Jeremiah Mey’s classroom, before school was let out for the day, his fourth- and fifth-grade literary students shared memories of the school year, but also excitedly boasted where they were headed for summer vacation as they packed up desks and gathered belongings.For the most part, Mey said, “we’re closing up the end of the year as we normally would.”• • •In the assembly hall,closing ceremony attendees poured over old yearbooks, looking for pictures of former teachers and classmates. Parents showed their children class photos of themselves from when they attended Pleasant View.“I grew up down the street,” said Rebecca Harris, now a Lakewood resident, as she showed her 5-year-old son Jamison a picture of herself and former classmates. “I attended Pleasant View, and so did my mom.”Jamisonwill start kindergarten in August, Harris said, and the saddest thing about the school closing is that now there’s no chance of him being a third-generation Pleasant View alumni.During the closing ceremony presentations in the assembly hall, sixth-graders gave short speeches — anecdotes of them starting out as seeds at Pleasant View and, with sun and water, sprouting as they continue on their scholarly journey.A butterfly release outdoors concluded the ceremony.Teacher Holly Robel calls the school’s closing a great loss.But she and her second-grade students grasped onto the symbolism of the change with a butterfly.“It’s OK to be sad at the loss of a caterpillar,” she said, “because we gain a butterfly for the next chapter of our lives.”
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