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DPS 'very committed' to bringing students back in January; board approves interim superintendent

That message came during the last update from outgoing Superintendent Susana Cordova.

DENVER — At the end of the month, Denver Public Schools (DPS) Superintendent Susana Cordova will wrap up her three-decade-long career with the district and move to Texas for a new position as deputy superintendent with the Dallas Independent School District. 

The DPS board on Thursday unanimously voted Dwight D. Jones to serve as interim superintendent.

"We are very committed to welcoming our students back in January," Cordova said during her last update as the leader of the state's largest school district. "We've seen dramatic decreases (in COVID data) but it's going to take ongoing vigilance to do that."

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RELATED: DPS superintendent talks about leaving the Denver school district for Dallas

On Dec. 31, Cordova will leave the district as they prepare for the potential return to in-person learning.

"I think it's just really essential that we treat each other with kindness with respect and we focus on the most important work which is accelerating learning for our kids who already missed out on so much."

She said they understand the past few months have been difficult especially for those who have had very little if any in-person instruction.

"We're doing a lot of work to stress one of the most important learnings for this year, how we can very quickly re-engage students who may have struggled in the remote environment with lots of opportunities for kids to both interact inside school in safe ways, as well as get deeply engaged in the learning we know is so important for them."

Cordova also touched on how the district will deal with fluctuating enrollment due to the pandemic. This school year, the district saw lower enrollment, particularly among the youngest students. It remains to be seen what will happen next school year.

"We were really thoughtful this year about how to grapple with the decline in enrollment," said Cordova. "We were just a little above 3% and the majority at the earliest grades. We did some rearranging of our budget to allow our schools to keep staff in place with the expectation that next year will look a lot more like a normal year."

She said they're looking for ways to adapt for potentially larger classes next year, in grades such as kindergarten where parents might have opted to wait an extra year to enroll their child.

RELATED: Colorado schools post first year-to-year enrollment decrease in 30 years

In an interview with 9NEWS last week, Cordova said she is proud that DPS has grown academically and increased enrollment since she's been working as the district's chief academic officer and superintendent for the last two years.

She also addressed accusations of dysfunction among the Denver School Board.

"Frankly, I think we're at a point where we need to move past labels and I think it doesn't help the work to point fingers," Cordova said. "In any job, I think it's important for people to have the kind of relationships that feel like they are supportive, that feel like they've focused on common goals and common beliefs of what's possible. I think it's really important that the board, you know, seek a superintendent that they feel completely aligned with."

When asked Thursday what her parting message would be for staff, her first words were "thank you."

"I know first hand what a difference a great teacher makes in a child's life, so my first message would be thank you, thank you, thank you," she said. "My second message would be to please take care of yourselves. It's a marathon not a sprint. It's a marathon in a normal year and it is especially so during these really challenging times."

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