Parents call for community engagement Denver Public Schools seeks solution to budget crisis

School district anticipates a $36 million budget shortfall over the next three years due to declining enrollment
Denver parents hope for community engagement as DPS seeks solution to "budget crisis"
Posted at 10:30 PM, Nov 18, 2022
and last updated 2022-11-19 00:30:26-05

DENVER — Some parents breathed a sigh of relief after the Denver Public Schools Board of Education voted against proposed school closures as part of a way to address declining enrollment. However, fear of future school closures still lingers.

"I want my own kids to have... I want the kids in our community to have that same sort of stability," said Manuel Aragon, a DPS graduate whose 9-year-old daughter attends Colfax Elementary.

In late October, his daughter's school was one of 10 recommended for closure due to declining enrollment. Last week, the district cut the list to five schools. Then, in an eleventh-hour change, Superintendent Dr. Alex Marrero announced during Thursday's board meeting that only two schools would be considered for closure. The board voted 6-1 against the motions the same evening.

In a statement, Marrero wrote, "Following their vote, the Board pledged to provide direction to move the District forward. I look forward to engaging with the community and with the Board to develop other ways that we can address the crisis."

DPS anticipates a $36 million budget shortfall over the next three years due to declining enrollment. The Declining Enrollment Advisory Committee was created to study and produce recommendations in order to address the issue.

Aragon said he and other parents are understanding of the school district's need to address financial shortcomings feel they are being left out of the process.

"I think the community wants to help guide this process and be involved, and I think if the district were to engage with the community, the community could help them come to a solution that the community could get behind," Aragon said.

Aragon believes the district could work with parents to determine which school programs could stay and which could go.

"I think when you work with the community, you can find creative solutions that free up budget money and uplift the community and potentially don't close those schools," he said.

Denver7 reached out to DPS school board members Friday evening for insight on how they to engage with parents in the future.

In a statement, Board Vice President Auon'tai Anderson said, "My colleagues and I acknowledge there is critical cliff we are approaching if the numbers do not turn around — there is going to have to be a response to ensure the district isn't in a deficit or operating schools that are no longer functioning. Where we got this process wrong was the lack of community engagement and community buy in. They told families this is the way it's going to be, in all honesty the decision was never made because we as a board never voted on it."

Anderson said he hopes the district could find ways to shift schools struggling with enrollment to a small-schools model.

For now, it's unclear how the district will address its dwindling budget in the future.