PSD announces 2024-25 facility, program changes

 Oct. 5, 2023  

Dear Poudre School District community,  

This is a follow up to my Sept. 26 email about changes that will happen in Poudre School District for the 2024-25 school year. The following changes are necessary to ensure our school district’s vitality and ability to support student success for years to come. As we do this work, we will hold tight to our values of offering innovative programming and educational choices for our students and their families; being good stewards of taxpayer dollars; and providing outstanding educational opportunities while using available space in our buildings as effectively as possible.  

We must take proactive steps to address student enrollment that has been declining in PSD for several years largely because of the high cost of living in our community and decreasing birth rates in our region, in Colorado, and across the nation. PSD is not the only school district facing these challenges. Demographers project that PSD’s current enrollment of roughly 30,000 students will dip by about 10% over the next several years. That translates to a cut of about $40 million from PSD’s total annual budget of about $400 million. Acknowledging that the changes outlined below aren’t easy, our intent in making them is to lessen the impact of the extraordinary financial challenges on our horizon while investing in programs that are in public demand and essential to our students’ overall success.  

That said, shifts in enrollment are impacting parts of our district disproportionately. Timnath and Wellington’s communities are growing and may need more space for students in the years to come. Meanwhile, some schools in our community are seeing smaller enrollment numbers each year, which results in reduced funding. Their school budgets are getting smaller, which makes it harder to offer some of the things we value most as a district including extensive mental health and counseling supports as well as specials classes or electives, which can be provided in more expansive ways at other schools with higher enrollment. This is not equitable for students. It’s important to note that we are not seeing declines in the number of students who have increasingly significant needs, however. If we don’t make changes now, some of our programs that support our students with the highest needs may not exist in the future. 

PSD also has an estimated $1 billion in capital needs, according to an outside firm hired to assist with long-term facilities planning. This includes approximate costs to replace boilers, roofs, carpet and plumbing; to accommodate student growth in the areas of our district that do continue to grow like Timnath and Wellington; as well as install air conditioning and make other capital improvements. PSD currently has about $800,000 annually to pay for capital needs. After the new Board of Education settles in following the November 2023 election, Board directors may consider asking voters for their support to address these needs through a future ballot measure. We recognize that we can’t, in good conscience, ask for additional funding without first ensuring that we are maximizing our existing facilities and being good stewards of our current programs. 

We acknowledge that the Sept. 26 email was vague and prompted much discussion. It was important to forecast that change is on the horizon while also making time and space to share this news with the staff and parents/guardians at each of the impacted schools before communicating to our greater PSD community.

The following changes are what will happen for the 2024-25 school year: 

Bringing together Centennial High School and Poudre Community Academy  

To ensure PSD’s alternative education programs are sustained well into the future, Centennial High School and Poudre Community Academy will move into the building that currently houses Polaris Expeditionary Learning School, at 1905 Orchard Place in Fort Collins, for the 2024-25 school year. We plan to make renovations at the current building on Orchard Place to accommodate Centennial and PCA students. 

The staff and students at Centennial and PCA, with support from the district, have been asked to work together to design how alternative education will look and feel in that space. This is not Centennial in one wing and PCA in another. It’s about two school communities coming together as one and building a shared commitment to support our students and their unique needs.


Expanding Polaris Expeditionary Learning School at Olander Elementary School and Blevins Middle School 

We are excited to increase access to Expeditionary Learning, which has been in high demand in our community. As part of that, PSD will take the current K-12 school and create two Polaris campuses. Students in grades K-5 will go to Polaris at Olander Elementary, located in west Fort Collins near Spring Canyon Park. Polaris at Blevins, also located in west Fort Collins, will be for students in grades 6-12. Neither will be a school-within-a-school model; students on both campuses will be part of the Expeditionary Learning model. The fundamental idea behind Expeditionary Learning is that students learn more by experiencing the world around them. Expeditionary Learning harnesses the students’ natural passion to learn and helps children develop the curiosity, knowledge, skills, and personal qualities they need for successful adulthood.  

Olander was selected because its enrollment has declined in recent years and because its proximity to Spring Canyon Park makes it an ideal location to support Expeditionary Learning. Blevins has experienced significant academic growth in the past year; however, only about 40% of the building is currently in use and there is room to increase enrollment. Additionally, both Blevins and Olander are project-based learning schools, and there is some natural alignment between the project-based and expeditionary learning models. 


Upgrading and expanding programs that support students with disabilities 

We are excited to announce that our Community Connections and Cooper Home programs will move out of their current locations and into the building that currently houses Centennial High School, 330 E. Laurel St. in Fort Collins. PSD is also looking at moving other Transition Pathways programs, including Project Search, SWAP, and CAMPUS, which support some of our older students with disabilities, into this same space. 

This represents an investment in our students and the programs that support their unique needs. The benefits of this change are numerous and include being closer to Colorado State University, one of the many PSD partners that support students with disabilities, along with a closer proximity to public transportation and work-based learning opportunities in Old Town. 


Next steps  

PSD is one of the strongest school districts in the state of Colorado because of the people here – our students, our staff, our families, and community members. We recognize that engaging and designing the next steps for each impacted site must happen in collaboration with our students, school-based staff, families and central office staff. 

These changes are part of the first in a series that will take place in the next couple of years. We anticipate considering additional school consolidations and modifications to attendance areas over the course of the next year. No changes to attendance areas (boundaries) are currently anticipated for the 2024-25 school year. All of this information will be presented at the Oct. 10 PSD Board of Education meeting. To view the Board of Education meeting, click this link to watch the PSD Video on Demand. 

We will work as thoughtfully and quickly as possible to address our community's questions, knowing how important it is to share accurate information while we navigate this change together. PSD exists for our students. We remain committed to helping every student experience academic success and graduate from PSD prepared to live and work in our changing world. The strength and dedication to students within PSD is what gives us confidence in our collective ability to navigate these changes. 

With appreciation,  

Superintendent Brian Kingsley and the PSD Leadership Team