Sixteen schools in Jefferson County — including Bergen Meadow Elementary School — will be closing.
When Bergen Meadow closes after the 2023-24 school year, those students will move into their sister school Bergen Valley Elementary School starting in fall 2024. In the meantime, the district will build an addition to Bergen Valley to accommodate preschool through fifth graders.
Parents and teachers at The Bergens generally have been in favor of the consolidation, though parents were concerned about traffic on Sugarbush Drive both during the school day and in case an evacuation is needed. They also wanted to make sure students in all grades feel included into the new larger school.
At the Nov. 10 school board meeting attended by about 1,000 people, with more than 900 online, the 15 speakers — none of them from the foothills — implored the board not to close schools until a districtwide long-range plan could be created that included parent input. They asked the district to collaborate with parents on solutions before closing schools.
Speakers said they felt betrayed by the district and blindsided by the school-closure proposals, saying they could have been included in discussions long before the proposal was made public in August. Others were concerned that closures were not taking racial equality and marginalized students into account.
Board members, who explained their positions at the board meeting before unanimously voting to close the schools, said while they understood parents’ concerns, they believed the positives outweighed the negatives, and closing schools would begin to meet the large fiscal deficits the district is facing.
At prior meetings at Bergen Meadow about the consolidation, teachers lauded the benefits of educating students when Bergen Meadow and Bergen Valley consolidate. They said being in one building would allow teachers to collaborate more, older students to mentor younger students and more. Families would feel more integrated into the school.
The expanded Bergen Valley will have room for up to four classes of each grade level plus room for a preschool. Parents and staff members will have input into designing the addition.
In the combined school, class sizes will continue to be 18 to 24 students in kindergarten through third grade and 22 to 30 students in fourth and fifth grade, which are school district guidelines.
Principal Kristen Hyde has said when combined in fall 2024, the school is projected to have about 500 students with a capacity for 640 students. Since the schools are consolidating, only a few positions would be eliminated to reduce redundancies.
At a public hearing before the school board on Oct. 28, a parent suggested that Bergen Meadow be closed, and a new school be put there instead because of better access. Another parent didn’t believe the district’s enrollment numbers and asked that Bergen Meadow remain open.
Bergen Meadow on Hiwan Drive was built in 1970. It was known as Bergen Elementary School, and it housed all elementary school grades.
Bergen Valley on Sugarbush Drive about 1.7 miles away was constructed in 1997 to provide more space for the then-overcrowded Bergen Elementary. Since 1997, Bergen Meadow houses students in preschool through second grade, and Bergen Valley houses students in third through fifth grade.
Bergen Meadow and Bergen Valley — known together as The Bergens — share a principal; buses; a PTA; a digital teacher librarian; art, music and physical education teachers; mental health professionals and more.