By Eric Heinz
Editor’s note: This story has been updated to reflect updates of what the Denver Public Schools has voted on since the print edition was distributed.
Denver Public Schools was mulling the consolidation of 10 elementary schools…then five…then in a short moment of recent deliberation two, and then it ultimately voted to do nothing.
In the wake of declining enrollment, the board of education was tasked to figure out how to close schools in the effort to reduce costs. Yet in a decision Thursday, Nov. 17, the board rebuffed the superintendent’s proposal.
Denver Discovery School, Schmitt Elementary, Fairview Elementary, International Academy of Denver at Harrington, and Math and Science Leadership Academy were considered for consolidation.
Columbian Elementary would have unified with Trevista at Trevista. Then it was announced those schools were off the chopping block. Other schools for consolidation consideration were Palmer Elementary and Eagleton Elementary, which were also removed from the list.
The schools in Northwest Denver that were being considered for consolidation included Fairview Elementary and Colfax Elementary, which would have unified with K-5 grades at Cheltenham and early childhood education at Colfax.
All of that that is nullified for the moment.
The criteria was based on addressing schools with a “critically low” enrollment of fewer than 215 students and “each school’s unique context.” The 10 schools originally slated for consolidation are subsidized by the other schools in the district by about $5 million each year, and Marrero said instead of subsidizing the smaller schools, DPS could fund the yearly salaries and benefits for more than 50 full-time employees.
Marrero said the consolidations are expected to include staff and principals who will move over to their respective consolidated school.
“We’re gonna do a process to make sure that we have a leader (at each school), and it’s going to help also with the unification and the culture,” Marrero said. “That’s what makes our approach very different than everyone else’s. I can’t think of one consolidation, even if they call the closure, that is allowing for this amount of nuance and flexibility. I’m guaranteeing professionals are not only gonna land on their feet, they’re gonna land where other students are headed.”
Marrero said some of the factors that have contributed to school consolidations are the rise in the cost of living and home prices in the area, as well as declining birth rates and the expansion of the number of schools in the Denver area.
According to DPS, in the past five years, elementary and middle school enrollment has declined by more than 6,000 students, resulting in a loss of $61 million annually in taxes. DPS stated an additional loss of about 3,000 elementary and middle school students over the next four years is expected, resulting in an additional loss of $36 million in funding.
This is a developing story. The Denver North Star will provide more coverage as it becomes available.