What's going on with Sterling Ranch's schools?
Two new Sterling Ranch schools featured in Douglas County Schools plan
Sterling Ranch's current feeder middle school, Ranch View Middle School
Here at Focus Real Estate we often field questions about Sterling Ranch's schools from friends and clients thinking about building a new home in the community. As a mother of three young children, I completely understand - schools are always top of mind for me as well. The questions generally fall into two "buckets":
First, my clients often ask me about the current Douglas County schools their children would attend if they build a new home in Sterling Ranch.
Second, I'm often asked when might Douglas County School District start building local facilities in the community.
To answer the first question, if you'd like to learn more about Sterling Ranch's current schools be sure to check out these Roundup articles:
A Douglas County schools bus in Littleton's Sterling Ranch community
The short story is that Sterling Ranch's current feeder schools - Roxborough Primary (grades K-2), Roxborough Intermediate (grades 3-6), Ranch View Middle School (grades 7-8), and ThunderRidge High School (grades 9-12) - are great schools.
But what about local schools inside Sterling Ranch? After all, upon full build-out of the community in 10+ years we could have as many as 5 elementary schools, 2 middle schools, and 1 high school in the community. Also, there may be a new school going into Solstice, the Shea community being built just north of Sterling Ranch close to the southern border of Chatfield Reservoir. So there could be 6 elementary schools alone in the south Chatfield corridor between Solstice and Sterling Ranch.
But what does the plan/timing actually look like?
Here's what I've been able to find out. This past summer Douglas County School District published its 2019-2020 Master Capital Plan. The plan encompasses a five-year period (2019-2024) and is used to identify and prioritize future school sites to help satisfy student enrollment needs. It's also used to prioritize funding for capital reinvestment and new construction.
In the 287 page report, Sterling Ranch is mentioned 28 times. For example, identified as one of the school district's new construction needs for the next 1-5 years is “one new school in the Sterling Ranch development (Northwest Douglas County).”
Here’s are the 1-5 year construction needs for the school district:
I think it's interesting that instead of saying "elementary school" for Sterling Ranch's school like the report does for The Meadows and other areas, Sterling Ranch's need is "one new school." Though this is just me speculating, I'm wondering if the school district is debating whether an elementary or middle school will be necessary, or perhaps a combined elementary and middle school is on the radar. Regardless, of the total 13 new construction needs for the next five years, 6 are schools.
What about a high school? Well, glad you asked. In the 6-10 year section, the report identifies a future Sterling Ranch high school:
What about the cost? The report identifies a few different ways to potentially look at building costs, but to keep this simple I'm only going to include the cost projections assuming the school district builds to its current standards. These standards are relativity high given Douglas County is anticipating that its buildings will last 50-75 years and will be built using components that are long lasting, require minimal maintenance, provide energy efficiency savings, and increase student and staff comfort.
Here are the projected costs for both the Sterling Ranch elementary/middle school and the high school (assuming current building standards):
Note that the four elementary schools all have an ~$38M cost, while the Sterling Ranch school has an ~$52M cost. This also made me wonder if a combined elementary/middle school might be a topic of conversation (again, I'm speculating).
What about high school costs?
The report also addresses alternatives/downsides to not building a new elementary/middle school in Sterling Ranch:
"Potential increased commute time for students and parents. Potential congestion, safety, and accessibility issues as updated attendance area boundaries will need to cross major roads and intersections in order to balance enrollment. Potential congestion, safety, and accessibility issues with K-6 students from Sterling Ranch development crossing US 85 (Santa Fe Drive) to attend neighborhood school. May go against community desires and preference for current neighborhood school."
As for not building a high school in Sterling Ranch, the report says:
"Reboundary of high school feeders would affect all schools and levels in the North Planning area. Elementary and Middle School population would be impacted along with High School population. It may not be logistically possible to balance enrollment while maintaining existing programming and transportation connectivity. If not monitored closely, could under-enroll or over-enroll North Planning Area high schools."
There's a wealth of information in this 287 page report so if you'd like to read more here's the link. But here are a few of my high level takeaways:
First, I'm glad to see Sterling Ranch's school situation appears to very much be on the radar of the school district. Douglas County School District has 68,000 students and 8,300 employees - so needless to say, it's BIG. It's always good to know that our community is a priority and being included in high level planning conversations.
I'm also glad to see that the school district acknowledges that not building local schools would not only potentially go against the wishes of many Sterling Ranch residents, but also that there could be a drastic impact to many other local Douglas County schools.
So that's what we know about our school situation right now! Keep in mind that I'm a realtor who specializes in Sterling Ranch and am not privy to internal Douglas County School District conversations and plans. Much of the information in this post can and likely will change and is likely not comprehensive. If you're a Sterling Ranch resident, a Douglas County Schools employee, or you just have more information, I would love to hear from you (Mariel@Focus-Realtors.com)!
Last but not least, if you'd like to learn more about the future of Sterling Ranch, be sure to check out What's next for Sterling Ranch - 2019 and beyond. Preliminary plans suggest there could be a school in Providence Village (the current neighborhood), as well as Ascent Village (the next neighborhood). Check out the map in the article for a potential school location in Ascent.
Let's keep the school conversation going, and I'll do my best to update you via the Sterling Ranch Roundup so you know what I know!
Mariel Ross is a realtor who specializes in helping clients budget for, design, and build their dream homes. At Focus Real Estate we've helped clients build hundreds of new homes around Denver with Lennar, Parkwood, Richmond, Wonderland, and many other builders.
Learn more about what I do here.