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Vote for closure might not be the end for Fairview Elementary

Superintendent Dr. Alex Marrero said if upcoming affordable housing around Fairview Elementary School increases enrollment, DPS will consider reopening the school.

DENVER, Colorado — A day after the Denver Public Schools Board of Education decided to close three schools, Superintendent Dr. Alex Marrero said the district would consider reevaluating opening one of the schools if enrollment increased. 

Denver Discovery, Fairview Elementary, and the Mathematics and Science Leadership Academy (MSLA) will close for the upcoming academic year, after the school board vote Thursday. Of the three schools, DPS received the most attention and criticism over Fairview Elementary being on the list.

Fairview is in Denver's Sun Valley neighborhood, next to Empower Field at Mile High. The majority of the neighborhood's housing has been affordable housing, operated under the Denver Housing Authority (DHA). In 2018, much of the affordable housing was torn down to be re-built.

As a result, families who lived there moved to other areas. Those families, many of whom are refugees and immigrants, have priority to return when the new housing is complete. The timeline varies on completion, but at least 240 units are expected to become available in the immediate future.

DHA projects up to 400 students will return to Sun Valley, while DPS projects a continued decline in enrollment. Many in the neighborhood said at community meetings that the decision felt preemptive, before allowing families to move back in.

"I want to make it very clear to the Fairview and Sun Valley community, if the numbers are there and the need and a desire, of course we will re-engage," said Marrero, who added that the district will look at the situation annually. "Unfortunately, that will not be for next year because the decision has already been made."

Marrero said that 44% of the student population that would go to Fairview is opting to go elsewhere, leading to the low enrollment.

"Perhaps we need to reimagine what Fairview looks like, make it a viable option, a desirable place, and perhaps we, as DPS, need to do a little bit of door-knocking to say, look, you have a gem right here. We are committed to do that," Marrero said.

Due to the funding system, Fairview would need an additional 185 students to receive increased funding. Marrero said that adding students under that threshold would burden resources in a school where teachers are exhausted. 

"We are hopeful in a couple years, the figures that we will be hearing in terms of residents, and our hope is that those residents who are returning to Sun Valley have school-aged children, so it’s very possible, and we are excited if that is. But again, we have to go with concrete numbers and have to have a strategy and not just hope," Marrero said. 

Fairview will remain open in some capacity next year. DPS isn't sure what that will look like but has said programs such as after-school activities, Saturday academy and others might be housed in the building. 

"We are not taking a wrecking ball to Fairview," Marrero said.

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