DENVER, Colorado — For the first time in eight years, Montbello High School in Denver welcomed students on Tuesday for their first day of school.
The last class graduated in 2014, following a vote years prior to close the school due to what Denver Public Schools called performance-related issues.
Montbello High School opened in 1980 and was the first high school built in the far northeast Denver area. Over the years, it grew to serve a diverse student population with largely African American and Hispanic families calling the Montbello community home.
In hopes of increasing academic performance, DPS closed Montbello High School in 2010 to open smaller, specialized schools. Critics, even one school board member at the time, called the decision "quick and not inclusive."
Officials said they hoped it would create a better learning environment, though critics had pushed for the district to invest additional resources as the solution instead of shutting it down.
Following the vote, the remaining students at Montbello were phased out. Families who lived in Montbello often sent their children to schools in Green Valley Ranch.
2022 incoming class
On Tuesday, Montbello High School welcomed its first students in eight years. It was a moment the community had been waiting for.
Twin brothers Evan and Devan Womley, who previously attended Collegiate Preparatory Academy, were entering their junior year at Montbello High School.
"They missed it because it was the heart of Montbello," Devan said. "The school was like the heart of Montbello."
Because he and his brother grew up in Montbello, Devan said he hoped they would be able to attend if the school ever reopened.
"It’s surreal though. How it all happened because I heard about it two years ago. I didn’t think it was going to happen," said Devan, who is especially excited to play on the basketball team.
Evan said he's excited to meet new friends and new teachers in the upcoming year.
"It’s going to be fun, some obstacles, challenges along the way," Evan said. "We’re going to make the best of it, I hope so."
The start of restoration and construction began in June, with the first phase of construction focused on preparing existing classroom pods for the school to utilize during the 2022-23 and 2023-24 school years.
A more extensive phase will begin in the fall of 2022, with an emphasis on creating an updated campus to join together new and renovated spaces. DPS will also incorporate architecture to highlight the Montbello name, meaning "beautiful mountain."
The project will include the construction of new learning environments as well as a new student commons, cafeteria, gym and library media center. The school will also incorporate renovations of the existing gyms, pool, and auditorium.
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