DENVER — For Milo Marquez, his roots within Denver Public Schools (DPS) span generations.
"My grandfather attended DPS. My parents met at East High School in DPS. I attended Denver Public Schools," he said, adding that his son also attends DPS.
Marquez now chairs the Latino Education Coalition, which advocates for Latino students and teachers within the school district.
Some members of the coalition were part of the district's committees on declining enrollment, he said, in order to have their voice at the table when discussing how to combat the problem.
"Our families rely on these schools for food and for sometimes shelter during the day and for childcare during the day," he said.
When the list of the 10 proposed schools to be closed and consolidated by DPS was released, Marquez said he found himself concerned.
"The schools are the bedrock of our community," Marquez said.
According to the Colorado Department of Education's 2021-2022 Pupil Membership data by race and ethnicity, which tracks the number of students, a majority of the schools on the closure list serve a majority of students who are Black/African American and Hispanic/Latino.
"One is the declining birth rates, gentrification. Our home prices are really skyrocketing," said DPS Superintendent Dr. Alex Marrero this week in an interview.
The district argues that consolidation will help improve student learning, saying that the district's smallest schools are struggling with consistent staffing and support for students.
"But it is necessary for our district. It's right-sizing our district. It is addressing the most important, well-rounded education offerings for each one of our scholars," Marrero said.
However, Marquez believes that the issues facing families now extend outside of the classroom, and that includes modes of transportation.
"You're asking these families to now commute and find ways to get to and from school every day. And if these families are walking to school, it makes it very difficult," he said. And for a lot of marginalized communities who rely on public transportation because they don't have a car at home...an extra mile is is a long distance."
He also argues that parents should have more time to assess the feasability of such a closure, and so that they can better understand the impacts.
"It would impact my family if my school was being closed or consolidated," he said.
He also hopes that programs, like the Transitional Native Language Instruction, follow the students to their new schools, if the proposal passes.
"But we have to understand where declining enrollment comes from and it comes from gentrification," Marquez said. "And if we're not out trying to figure out what is causing the gentrification in Denver public schools, then we're not really going to find any solution because we know that this gentrification is going to continue throughout marginalized communities."
The DPS Board of Education will vote on the recommendation on Nov. 17, following a presentation to the board on Nov. 3.
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