DENVER — The Denver Public Schools Board of Education is considering new criteria for future school consolidation and unification following nearly a decade of enrollment decline.
"I think we need to make sure we're really clear. This is where we are right now, and nobody's closing tomorrow. And no decisions are going to be made," said Board Member Dr. Carrie Olson during Thursday's meeting.
Nevertheless, DPS parent Deronn Turner said it's an important discussion.
"You have to walk very carefully in that arena because most of the public school population are children from marginalized communities," said Turner.
DPS board votes to close three schools over 'critically low enrollment'
The board voted in March to close Denver Discovery School, Fairview Elementary and Mathematics and Science Leadership Academy (MSLA) at the end of the 2022-23 school year due to “critically low enrollment.” Each of the three schools has fewer than 120 students, with Denver Discovery School projected to enroll just 62 students in 2023-24.
The three schools were part of an initial list of 10 schools identified in October 2022 that DPS recommended for closure and consolidation. That list was whittled down to five schools in November 2022 and to three in February 2023.
The closures sparked a conversation about the criteria used to identify which schools are selected.
Under the policy proposed Thursday, the superintendent will not use enrollment minimums as criteria for consolidation, since most under-enrolled schools in DPS are located in historically marginalized neighborhoods. The board also does not want to use standardized test scores as a condition.
The school board is asking for a process to inform students, parents and staff affected by a school closure.
DPS superintendent discusses school closures, campus violence
The potential changes come as the district deals with an influx of migrant students. Some questioned if it was an appropriate time to be having this school closure conversation.
"It's a great issue for us to be solving as a community. How are we supporting these schools that are now over-enrolled, over-projected? And I don't think I'm speaking out of term for any of my colleagues... but I would say we welcome anyone who wants to come to this district," said Board Vice President Auon'tai Anderson.
When it comes to our children, Turner said it's important to have this mindful conversation.
"It's always the time to discuss things like that because they're critically important to thriving and viable societies," said Turner.
The Board of Education will continue its discussion on a new executive limitation, titled EL-18 School Consolidation and Unification, on October 19.