The Truth Behind WPSD School Capacity: Focus on the decision to move 6th grade to the elementary schools.

Freedom Watch News
Published 03/10/2023 6 minute read

The Truth Behind WPSD School Capacity:  Focus on the decision to move 6th grade to the elementary schools.

On March 1st, 2023, the WPSD announced it would be expanding the district’s elementary schools to include 6thgrade.  The district cites their decision was made to optimize facilities and enhance academic performance.  Furthermore, the press release highlights the benefits of moving 6th grade into elementary schools, “By incorporating the 6th grade into our elementary schools, students will have a better opportunity to establish a solid foundation in these core subjects before transitioning to the more complex middle school environment. Also, middle school can be a time of heightened peer pressure as students begin to navigate the complexities of social relationships and group dynamics. Staying in elementary school for 6th grade allows students to focus on their academic and personal growth without feeling as much social pressure.”[1]

Following the announcement, concerns were voiced in the community about capacity in the elementary schools.  Will my child be sharing a classroom?  Won’t the schools be over capacity?  Why was this decision made?

Here is a review of the enrollment vs capacity in WPSD, we believe you will find this data will address why this decision was made as well as quell capacity concerns.  Note:  This data was pulled from CDE[2] and the Cooperative Strategies Facilities Master Plan.[3]

The decision to move 6th grade to the elementary schools puts the highest utilization of an elementary building at 70% functional capacity, far from crowded.  Based on the Cooperative Strategies study, they project a 0-5% increase in enrollment over the next 5 years.[4]  The 2020 Census data reveals there are 2,859 5-17 years olds in WPSD boundaries, so even if all these children were enrolled in WPSD, they still wouldn’t exceed the functional capacity of our schools at 3,605. [5] The middle school and high school are both sitting at less than 50% capacity with a projected decrease of enrollment by 28% and 29% respectively, leaving these facilities with a utilization rate in the high 20s and low 30s.[6]  The total enrollment for WPSD Enrollment in the 2022-23 school year is 2,122.  If you remove Merit from the equation, the district would have lost students year of year from the 2021-22 school year.  Merit helped the district grow by 15.8%, bringing 331 students back to the district.  In short, there are no capacity concerns moving 6th grade back to elementary.  Based on facility usage rates, it was the right decision and will allow for the only WPSD school growing, Merit Academy.    

Facility usage is not a new conversation to WPSD, the district has been in a steady decline post 2021.  In fact, the district lost 1,528 students between 2001-2021, 45% of enrollment.[7] Conversation about facilities and school closures began in 2012 when the WPSD Task Force discussed facility closure due to the state funding crisis and historic drop in enrollment.  In 2015, school closure was again a topic in the community.  Cooperative Strategies was brought in to evaluate and provide a formal review of the facilities in WPSD, they completed this in April of 2022.  It was clear the outcome of the study showed the district would continue to bleed students, leave buildings underutilized and drain taxpayer dollars.   









In 2016, the Sales Tax increase was approved to fund WP schools.  Even as school enrollment continues to decline, the general fund revenues continue to increase.  The cost per student is increasing without anything to show for it.   

Based on the actual data and trends over the last 20+ years, it is hard to argue that nothing should be done about the utilization of our public-school facilities.  Each day spent leaving our schools half empty drives a higher cost of unnecessary infrastructure, taking advantage of the taxpayer that funds these public institutions.  The decision to move 6th grade back into the elementary schools was the right choice.  The Cooperative Strategies study revealed that the projections signal a WPSD will have to close due to low utilization. The most likely scenario would be to combine the 7th and 8th grades into the High School and allow for Merit to grow in the middle school building.  This will mean less overhead, leaving more funding for teachers, students, and programs.  Change is uncomfortable, but it is the responsibility of the district and the school board to be good stewards of taxpayer funds, by maintaining the proper number of facilities needed for enrollment.  These decisions must be made for the betterment of our public institutions.  Making way for improvement in education is what this should all be about.  





[1] WPSD Press Release 3-1-2023  


[2] 2022-2023 Enrollment Data:  


[3] Long Range Facilities Mater Plan-Cooperative Strategies April 2022 (Capacity and Projections)  


[4] Long Range Facilities Mater Plan-Cooperative Strategies April 2022 (Capacity and Projections)  

[5] Census Data:  Census age 5-17 numbers come from US Census Bureau. Divide, CCD, Teller County is approx. WPSD district.  According to the Diversity Index, taken from the US Census Data (

                  2020 Census for the Divide, CCD (WPSD) area = 21,413. 

                  2020 Census for the Divide, CCD (WPSD) area 18 and older = 17,698

                  2019 ACS shows children under 5 years account for 4% of population in WPSD (4% of 21,413 = 856 are children under 5 years old.)  2019 5 year average: )     

= 21,413-17,698 = under 18 (3,715), - 856 children under 5 = 2,859 age 5-17y

Yes, some 18 year-olds are in high school, just like some 5 year-olds are still at home during October count window.

[6] Long Range Facilities Mater Plan-Cooperative Strategies April 2022 (Capacity and Projections)  

[7] CDE Historical Enrollment Data: Pupil Membership - Previous School Years | CDE (

[8] Historical Data about schools and improvements are taken from the WPSD’s Time Capsule page:

[9] Financial Data (including cost to maintain buildings)  are all taken from the WPSD’s Financial Transparency page, wherein prior budgets and finances are posted:


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