DENVER (KDVR) — The Denver Public Schools Board of Education has voted down a plan to close two schools because of low enrollment.
That 6-1 vote on Thursday night brought cheers from parents gathered in an overflow room at the downtown Emily Griffith High School campus.
Board Vice President Auon’tai Anderson told FOX31’s Evan Kruegel before the meeting that he was expecting the no vote.
“I believe we’re going to do the right thing and shock the remainder of the district,” he said.
Just minutes before the meeting, Superintendent Dr. Alex Marrero threw a curveball, changing the number of schools slated for closure from five to two. Those two schools were Math Science Leadership Academy and Denver Discovery School.
“This is the first time I’m hearing about this,” Anderson said, “and I feel blindsided.”
Some board members expressed concern over a lack of community engagement and voted against the plan just after 7 p.m. Still, plenty of questions remain regarding how the district will make up the funding.
Colorado funds its schools on a per-pupil system, meaning that school enrollment directly impacts school-level funding, according to Marrero. That means the district had to spend extra money to give low-enrollment schools the resources available in schools with larger student populations.
It remains unclear how the district plans on making up the funding.
Denver Public Schools closure plan changes
Originally, 10 schools were set to close, but the district recently modified that number to five schools:
- Denver Discovery School will unify with schools in the Greater Park Hill – Central Park Enrollment zone.
- Fairview Elementary and Colfax Elementary will unify with K-5 grades at Cheltenham and ECE at Colfax.
- International Academy of Denver at Harrington will unify with Columbine Elementary and Swansea Elementary in a new enrollment zone with Columbine and Swansea.
- Math Science Leadership Academy (MSLA) will unify with Valverde Elementary at Valverde.
- Schmitt Elementary will unify with Godsman Elementary at Godsman.
The fate of the other five schools that were originally considered for closure is still under consideration: Columbian, Palmer, Eagleton, Colfax and Whittier. The district said it will continue to engage with those school communities about what to do.
Denver public schools see lowering enrollment
Each of the 10 schools originally considered for closure had fewer than 215 students enrolled this fall, meaning the district had to spend extra money to give those schools resources available in schools with larger student populations.
Marrero has said the district spends $5 million each year to subsidize those 10 schools — money that could fund more than 50 full-time employees. Of that $5 million, more than two-thirds of it goes to the five schools that were up for consideration on Thursday.
DPS has said the student population has declined by more than 6,000 students in the last five years, and the number is expected to drop by another 3,000 over the next four years. The district linked the lower numbers to a loss of more than $61 million in annual taxes that fund schools, with another $36 million dip expected in the years to come.
The district has said school-based staff “will have a guaranteed role” at their consolidated school.