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'A bit of whiplash': DPS teacher reacts to recommendations that would close 10 schools

Colfax Elementary teacher wonders what could become of her job
'A bit of whiplash:' DPS teacher reacts to recommendations that would close ten schools
Posted at 11:42 AM, Oct 30, 2022
and last updated 2022-11-02 00:12:39-04

DENVER — Heather Abreu has been a teacher for more than a decade, spending the past six years of her career working as a visual arts teacher at Colfax Elementary School.

“Really happy to land here for visual arts and to just wear that one hat with this specific community," Abreu said from her colorful classroom. “They [her students] continue to teach me and show me how to include wonder and whimsy, and how to problem solve and how to work together. Because they're so open to it.”

Abreu said she found out, along with the rest of the community, that her school was recommended for closure on Tuesday afternoon. Colfax Elementary School is one of ten Denver Public Schools (DPS) that could consolidate with other schools in the district, due to declining enrollment. If the plan moves forward, the consolidation would be effective by the upcoming school year (2023-24).

According to Abreu, Colfax Elementary School has not experienced the declining enrollment DPS said has occurred in the district.

“Knowing that one of my colleagues here has 28 to 30 kids in her classroom, but yet, you're telling me that the school is too small, that we don't have enough kids here in order to continue to stay open, it's just beyond me," said Abreu. “I'm afraid my students might get lost in the shuffle.”

If the recommendations were approved by the Board of Education, Colfax Elementary School and Fairview Elementary School would consolidate with the K-5 grades at Cheltenham Elementary School. Colfax Elementary School could become an early childhood education center.

“I have more questions than anything about what my position next year could look like," Abreu said. “It has been told to me through my principal that we will be, as members of Denver Public education, offered a position next year. I don't know what that position looks like... I don't believe three visual arts teachers are going to be needed, nor am I, as a person, willing to try and compete with fellow colleagues for a position to fill a school.”

Abreu said her biggest concern is what will happen to her students.

“We service the homeless shelters that are around here. We do have families that continue to move in and out of the neighborhoods based on gentrification... I don't understand why we aren't looking at more affluent communities in order to be able to consolidate and change things up and create different resources," said Abreu.

Before the Board of Education votes on the recommendations on November 17, Abreu hopes the members will visit each of the schools on the list.

“I would love for them to come into my classroom, and spend time with these kids and see what this community really looks like and what this community really needs," Abreu said. “I understand that a budget has to be met. I understand that. There are some schools that have needs that aren't being met for their students. I don't believe Colfax is one of those places.”