Seeking to entice families to enroll their children, the Mapleton school district is offering students in the neighboring Adams 14 district preferential placement.
Residents of the Commerce-City based district received the mailers this week, just weeks after officials of both districts called off talks and failed to reconcile differences to work together.
“Your success matters in Mapleton!” the mailer states. “We are pleased to be prioritizing enrollment for Adams 14 families!”
The mailer’s messaging is also in Spanish.
In searching for a district manager, after the state ordered the district to hire outside help to improve, Adams 14 community members had recommended the Mapleton district as their top choice, citing the similarities in the communities and interest in Mapleton’s model of small, district-run schools.
A majority of Adams 14 school board members initially agreed, but the relationship fell apart over how much authority Mapleton would have. Then the dispute became unimportant after the State Board of Education decided that no school district was suited to manage another. Now the state will consider whether a national private consulting firm should take the job.
Melissa Johnson, a spokeswoman for Mapleton Public Schools, said it sent 10,000 postcards to homes east of the the district this year, spending $1,690. The cards didn’t go exclusively to Adams 14 households, although those families are the ones being offered priority.
“While we know we do not have the space in our district to serve all interested out of district families, we want to do what we can for the Adams 14 families that are interested in attending a Mapleton school,” Johnson said in an email.
Mapleton casts its campaign as responsive to the community, not as poaching students.
“The Adams 14 community asked us for support, and we remain committed to supporting our neighbors, Adams 14,” she said. “We are seeing a lot of interest from Adams 14 families and we wanted to make sure we shared this opportunity.”
Adams 14 officials did not respond to requests for comment on the campaign.
It also isn’t the first year Mapleton has tried to reach families outside its boundaries, she said.
State law doesn’t prohibit recruiting students from neighboring districts. But it can be controversial because Colorado funds school districts based on enrollment, so having more students means having more money.
Matt Cook, director of public policy and advocacy for the Colorado Association of School Boards, said it’s “very rare” for districts to openly go after each others’ students.
“The neighborhood districts want to stand on their own merit and not go after other students,” he said.
Like other districts in the metro area, Adams 14 has suffered declining enrollment. The latest state numbers show the district has just over 7,000 students, down from almost 7,500 last school year.
Adams 14 also has one of the highest rate of students enrolling in schools elsewhere. Mapleton schools are a top destination. In the current school year, 473 students who live in Adams 14 attend Mapleton schools. Mapleton also enrolls more than 800 students who live in the Adams 12 school district.
As a district, Mapleton has better academic ratings than Adams 14, but in the last couple of years Mapleton has seen a decrease in scores.