DENVER — The plan to close 10 schools in Denver is now in the hands of the school board. And some school board members are openly skeptical.
The district is trying to solve a problem with declining enrollment, and announced the proposed middle school and elementary school closures last week.
Thursday night, the full plan was formally presented publicly at a Denver Board of Education work session meeting.
“As we’re all aware, the problem with declining enrollment is not a new challenges to DPS,” said DPS Superintendent, Dr. Alex Marrero.
“Last year the board directed the district to look again at this problem and passed the Small Schools Resolution. As a result, DPS created the Declining Enrollment Advisory Committee which reaffirmed the need for the district to consolidate schools.”
The district says enrollment is declining, reporting decreases of more than 6,000 students in the last 5 years. During his presentation, Dr. Marrero points to Denver’s challenging housing market, gentrification, and declining birth rates. DPS expects enrollment to decline by thousands more in the years ahead.
As a result, the district says its lost $61 million annual in taxes that fund schools, and expects another $36 million lost in the next few years.
The 10 schools on the closure list have fewer than 215 students. The district has provided the following information about consolidations:
School Unification Plan
- Columbian Elementary will unify with Trevista at Trevista
- Palmer Elementary will unify with Montclair School of Academics and Enrichment K-5 grades at Montclair and ECE at Palmer
- Math Science Leadership Academy (MSLA) will unify with Valverde Elementary at Valverde
- Schmitt Elementary will unify with Godsman Elementary at Godsman
- Eagleton Elementary will unify with Cowell Elementary at Cowell
- Fairview Elementary and Colfax Elementary will unify with K-5 grades at Cheltenham and ECE at Colfax
- International Academy of Denver at Harrington will unify with Columbine Elementary and Swansea Elementary in a new enrollment zone with Columbine and Swansea
- Denver Discovery School will unify with schools in the Greater Park Hill – Central Park Enrollment zone
- Whittier K-8 will unify with schools in the Greater Five Points Elementary Enrollment Zone and the Near Northeast Middle School Enrollment Zone
The school board acknowledged the difficult work by the district to build the plan, but also expressed concerns about the process. Several expressed concerns about moving too quickly, why some schools were recommended for closure while others weren’t, and how much the community got a chance to be involved.
“I'm still trying to figure out how we get past here,” said Auont’ai Anderson, the Board Vice President. “How we can defend our process. Because we have asked our communities to do this sing and dance, show us you’re worthy, it's up to 7 of us now. Do this and you may get to save your school.”
"When we keep saying we have not, on a variety of topics, have not had direct conversations with the impacted community, until we have come forward with the plan, that’s district led, that’s not community led,” said Board Member, Scott Esserman.
Anderson and Board Member Michelle Quattlebaum both said they could not support the current recommendation. Several board members floated the idea of finding a different solution, even suggesting the board revoke the Small Schools Resolution.'
"No one around the table disagrees that we have to do something, in terms of the educational experience and also we all have a fiduciary responsibility," said Dr. Marrero
"Absent of a resolution, a good team, a good leadership team is going to bring this before the board. This is putting pressure, without a doubt, it calls for a timely response. Absent of that, there would have been some sort of presentation at some point, 'Ok, we have to right size the district.'"
Thursday’s meeting was just a work session, the final vote on the plan is scheduled for November 17. DPS is hosting a special public comment meeting for community members before that, on Monday, November 14th to discuss the school consolidation proposal.
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