Often, when someone is relocating to Douglas County from outside of Colorado I will be asked, “What exactly is the track system in Douglas County schools and how does it work?” It is not the easiest thing to initially understand, but once you see how it works it will make sense.
The track system was introduced in Douglas County elementary schools during the period of tremendous growth and its purpose is to accommodate more students in less space. Many of the older neighborhoods in the Denver area have elementary schools that were built to accommodate the number of students enrolled at the time it was built and did not necessarily plan for the years ahead when neighborhoods would change and enrollment numbers would level out. This now leaves many elementary schools in other areas with empty classrooms, low enrollment numbers and unused space.
Douglas County decided not to go that route and altered the way schools were built and run in the area. The track system divides students into 4 sections, called tracks and labels them A, B, C and D. However space is built to accommodate 3 of those sections at a time. This allows each school to house about 25% more students in its facility than it would if a traditional calendar was in place. The school calendar runs year round, with the beginning of the school year typically the week after the 4th of July and wrapping up about the 3rd week of June. In a nutshell, each track has 9 weeks in and then 3 weeks out – with major breaks and holidays falling somewhere in between when everyone is out – adding longer breaks for those that are scheduled to be off-track. “A track” happens to be off-track right before Christmas so there is a longer break there. “B track” is off after New Years, so again the longer break. A full track calendar can be viewed here but please note that these things can and do change from year to year. Eventually when each school’s enrollment levels off over time it will be able to switch to a traditional schedule without worrying about empty space.
Here are some typical questions that I hear when someone is relocating…
So what schools are on the track system? Well, that can change. According to the Douglas County School district site, currently 23 elementary schools are on the track system, 2 are a modified year round schedule and 16 are on the traditional/conventional schedule. It is always a good idea to inquire with the school district to know if your school is track or not and what the plans are for the following year. I have met some people that have made decisions on where to live based on if their school is track or not. This can be a potential mistake as schools can and sometimes do change if they are traditional or not based on current enrollment numbers. When a school first opens, especially in a new development, it may be lower in enrollment numbers and able to accommodate all students at once. But later in time as the development and enrollment grows it could change to the track system. And as things level off it can change back to a traditional schedule.
How are tracks assigned? The overall way is a lottery system during enrollment for incoming kindergartners, however each individual school may have a unique policy so it is best to contact the individual school or the school district. Students that enroll during the year or for the next school year (excluding kindergartner) are placed on a space available basis for all children in the family (keeping siblings together.) The school district web site keeps their policy on this updated as well.
Which track is best & what should I hope we get? That is really going to depend on you. I really encourage all of my clients that are moving to Douglas County, first to find out what is available, and then to really study the track calendar and make decisions that are best for your family when selecting your choices. Do you like to take a fall vacation when most children are in school? Would you like to extend Thanksgiving trips to relatives without pulling children out of class? These are really things to think about.
What options are available to kids off-track when the parents are working? There are many programs in the area to help families handle off-track times. The school district itself runs programs in the schools. Many of the local recreation centers also have day camp sessions and there are many private programs as well that cater to this need.
At this time, only the area elementary schools are considered for the track system. Middle school and high school students all attend on a traditional schedule. There are many reasons for this, the most obvious being inter-county-school interactions such as sports and other related activities.
Some new families to Douglas County do find the track system overwhelming at first. But all change takes a little time to get used to. I do find that many people like having time that the masses do not have off to enjoy a less crowded vacation or just a scheduled break when the family seems to need it most. Many other areas of the country also have some type of year round scheduled, especially where there is a lot of growth and development and even some other counties in Colorado have some schools on some type of rotating schedule. Give it time, you will love it! And remember, even changes will change eventually – it is always a good idea to double check with the school district before making any decisions.
Note: Douglas County Schools are made up of Highlands Ranch, Lone Tree, Parker, Castle Rock, Larkspur, Sedalia, Franktown and a very small part of Littleton (Wildcat, Province Center, Chatfield)
Steve Scheer, RE/MAX Masters, Inc.