It involves the creation of two new district "innovation" schools.
"It was a call from the community to do a transformation here at West," Teresa Klava, principal of West Leadership Academy, said.
West Leadership Academy and West Generation Academy will join the current West High School on the historic campus site located near 9th Avenue and Elati Street.
West High opened in 1883 and has a rich tradition. But, over the last 10 years, academics at West High have suffered. So, the community engaged the district in trying to find a reform plan.
Both West Leadership and West Generation are based on schools that were successful with urban students in New York City. Leadership is partnering with College Board, the creators of the Advanced Placement tests and SAT to create a college preparatory program.
"A College Board school essentially is a school that emphasizes high rigor," Klava said.
According to principal Bob Villarreal, West Generation will be more focused on making corporate connections.
"Any profession that they're interested in - dentistry, doctor, architecture, pharmaceuticals, green energy," Villarreal said. "They'll be able to study those professions one month in the fall and one month in the spring."
Villarreal says his classrooms will resemble the corporate environment with students working more in small groups than on their own.
"The other piece is we have a 200 day calendar and eight hour day," Villarreal said. "Given that, our students receive 30 percent more education."
West Leadership will operate on the same schedule. Teachers will not have desks in the classrooms, because they will be encouraged to roam around the room to help students.
"I think this year the teachers will be prepared and be able to lead their students to success," said Perla Dominguez, an incoming 9th grade student at West Leadership Academy.
Teachers' desks will be placed together in a separate teacher work room where they will spend 150 minutes each day planning and collaborating.
"Strategy and tactics, we're talking about a chess game that's indeed what this is," Klava said. "We're really looking at what is the strategy to make sure that happens where it isn't left to happenstance."
Monique Apodaca is signing up her daughter in West Generation Academy. Apodaca says if nothing had been changed, she would be looking elsewhere. She likes the new options.
"It fits different needs for different types of families or what they're wanting for their child," Apodaca said.
The current West High School still has 10th, 11th, and 12th grades. After the 10th graders graduate in three years, the traditional program will be phased out and the two leadership academies will take all the classroom space on the West High Campus.
School leaders want people to know that the 129-year-old identity and tradition of West High School will remain intact. Students from the academies will combine to form athletic teams and other extracurricular activities.
"We're still the West Cowboys," Klava said. "It's critical that everybody understands West is not closing. West is transforming their academic programs."
Klava and Villarreal both hope this is transformation that brings in a new era for the west Denver community.
"What you are going to see is one of the premiere schools in America," Villarreal said.
(KUSA-TV © 2012 Multimedia Holdings Corporation)