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For the first time in a decade, Denver Public Schools Board of Education votes to close charter school

STRIVE PREP KEPNER
Posted at 7:16 PM, Jan 12, 2023
and last updated 2023-01-12 23:49:38-05

DENVER — The Denver Public Schools (DPS) Board of Education did not renew a contract with STRIVE Prep Kepner during a meeting Thursday, marking the first time the board has voted to close a charter school in a decade.

The decision comes after the charter middle school did not meet academic performance requirements held by DPS.

Chalkbeat Colorado's Melanie Asmar reports that a memo obtained last month shows STRIVE Prep Kepner, which opened in 2016 in Denver's Westwood neighborhood, received the lowest state rating last year, with 99 percent of Colorado students scoring better in math and reading.

The school is home to nearly 180 students. More than 90 percent of students are Hispanic, and more than 80 percent of them qualify for subsidized meals.

Following the board's decision, Superintendent Alex Marrero told Denver7 DPS will work with impacted employees at the school.

"There are incredible educators there that we'll look in to support, whether they go and continue with the STRIVE network or they want to join DPS," Marrero said. "Our scholars are never to blame. I think that that region of our district needs a tremendous amount of support because it's not just Kepner. There are other schools in that region who have really been suffering, have been heavily impacted because of COVID."

Board of Education Vice President Aoun'tai Anderson was the only board member to vote in favor of renewing the school's contract.

"That is not fair for those families," Anderson said. "Those families should have had community engagement opportunities where we had community meetings, talked about the issues."

In a statement to Denver7, STRIVE Prep Central spokeswoman Julia Virnstein said, "School closures are painful, but STRIVE Prep - Kepner is committed to finishing the year strong and supporting each and every one of our families in finding the best school option for their child during the SchoolChoice window. That is our focus right now."

The school will close after the academic year ends in June.

A Keystone Policy Center report found following the return to in-person learning, Colorado charter schools saw larger proportions of students meeting or exceeding grade-level expectations and higher academic growth than students who attend district-run schools.