Headlines — January 19, 2023

January 19, 2023

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State Receives 12,000 Universal Preschool Applications On First Day Of Sign-Up

The Colorado Department of Early Childhood said the state received close to 12,000 applicants on its opening day of allowing families to sign up for the new universal preschool program that will start this fall. According to Chalkbeat Colorado, department officials originally estimated 30,000 kids would enroll in the program for its inaugural year based on current enrollments across the country and Denver’s preschool program. State officials told the Colorado Sun Tuesday’s numbers exceeded their expectations and are an excellent indicator of family interest. 

The department said close to 1,500 child care providers have so far submitted forms to offer services through the program. Melissa Mares with the Colorado Children’s Campaign told the Colorado Sun, based on the number of providers who plan to take part in the program, the state could enroll up to 60,000 preschoolers.

Colorado’s Declining Birth Rates Cascade Into Funding And Enrollment Problems For Schools 

Some of the state’s largest school districts have declining enrollment including those in Denver, Jefferson County and Boulder Valley. The drop in enrollment threatens per-pupil statewide funding and the effects of the funding cuts could cascade to other districts that receive support from their better funded neighbors. 

Colorado schools face funding shortfalls due to the state’s $10 billion debt bill. This year alone, the state cut school funding by over three-hundred million dollars. 

State demographer Elizabeth Garner told the Colorado Sun that school enrollment decline this year is “hands down” due to the state’s lower birth rates. Factors like increasing costs of living have contributed to almost 15 years of falling birth rates. 

Middle and elementary schools took the most significant enrollment hit, dropping 2 and 4 percent from last year. Which could have trickle-down effects. In November, Jefferson County Public Schools announced plans to close 16 elementary schools at the end of this school year. 

Denver City Council OKs Purchase of 96 Room Hotel To Serve Unhoused Individuals 

The Denver City Council has approved a $9 million purchase of a 96 unit hotel and two adjacent parcels at East 38th and Peoria in Denver’s Central Park neighborhood. The city aims to add the property to its portfolio of converted hotel rooms that support people that need housing and other services. 

Federal funds made the purchase possible, namely a $2 million grant championed by Rep. Diana DeGette. 

Officials with Denver’s Department of Housing Stability say they expect the site will begin housing residents later this year and will soon issue a Request for Proposals seeking an operator to complete renovations and provide support services at the site.

Boulder And Lafayette Considering A Ban On Gas Hookups For New Builds 

New research demonstrating the negative health impacts of gas stoves may result in new local policies. Boulder Mayor Aaron Brockett told the Boulder Reporting Lab city council was already considering requiring all-electric construction in new buildings as Boulder makes updates to the building code this year.  He said new health reports support those changes for new construction.

A peer-reviewed study released in December found greater rates of childhood asthma in homes with gas stoves. It added to a growing body of studies suggesting climate and human health dangers from methane emitting appliances, such as water heaters, gas stoves, and gas-powered furnaces. 

Lafayette is another Boulder County municipality that has cued up an ordinance that would ban gas hookups in new buildings. 

Carolyn Elam, Boulder’s Senior Sustainability Manager of Energy Systems, told the Boulder Reporting Lab tackling gas stoves in existing homes is another big issue. Boulder homeowners can currently apply for a $200 rebate from the city and a $100 rebate from the county if they make the switch from gas to electric.

Colorado’s Competency Restoration Education Pilot Program Sees Reduction For Those On Waitlist For Court-Ordered Treatment 

A new program under the Colorado Office of Civil and Forensic and Mental Health has restored 25% of individuals charged with a crime to competency according to a Colorado Department of Human Services report. State officials say this is helping reduce the number of individuals who are awaiting trial because of mental incompetence.

Colorado is one of the first states to try the pre-restoration education program which began in July. The program teaches those awaiting trial basic legal knowledge and rational decision-making practices with an aim to increase the client’s understanding of legal proceedings and their ability to consult with their attorney. The program also offers mental health care and psychiatric medication management.

According to state officials, the funding for the program comes under the federal American Rescue Plan Act and has served 57 clients in the last six months.

Operator Negotiations For Larimer County’s New Landfill Faces Criticism From Fort Collins Councilmembers 

Two Fort Collins City Council members have expressed concern over Larimer County’s decision to approve Republic Services to help build and operate a new landfill near Wellington. Larimer County will own the land and have control over rates, but Republic will pay to build and operate the facility. Assistant County Manager Laurie Kadrich said the county chose Republic among three competitive bids and said the company’s longevity, goals, and financial stability made them the best candidate of the three companies who vied to operate the county’s new landfill. 

Two Fort Collins city council members who sit on the county’s Solid Waste Policy Advisory Council issued critical remarks on the county’s approach in partnering with a private waste management company. Fort Collins city council member Kelly Ohlson expressed that he wants the technical advisory committee of the council to be more involved and says the process seems rushed especially as the county entertains a 100-year plus agreement for the landfill.  City councilperson Susan Gutowsky echoed Ohlson’s remarks and says she questions the county’s preference in partnering with a private company. 

Kadrich said she initially resisted a public/private partnership but said she has learned the county can influence what happens on the property with a private partner that leverages resources the county does not have.