DENVER (KDVR) — Many students head back to class this week, and with the arrival of each school year comes new beginnings. Another thing it brings is the reminder of ongoing challenges that rolled over from the previous year.

One metro area district is going to hear the voices of community members.

Though Denver Public Schools doesn’t start until Aug. 22, they have already been holding community meetings with the goal of getting input from parents on important topics in the district.

Every two years, elected school board officials set the vision of DPS, allocate the $1.3 billion budget, and more.

As a new school year starts, the board hopes to tackle some challenges on the first day of school.

They are coming to different neighborhoods across the metro area to have conversations with parents about the issues most important to them.

“It’s essential that we as board members are getting out into our community on a regular basis and we felt like it was important to do so. Here before the school year started,” DPS School Board member, Scott Esserman, said.

“I appreciate them taking the time out of their weekends in their free time, you know, to still put kids first,” the parent of a DPS high school student, Andrea Chavez, said.

They will be addressing the following issues:

  • Declining enrollment
  • Healthy start times
  • Academic achievement gaps
  • School safety
  • Transportation gaps
  • The ongoing COVID-19 pandemic

“I think the continued biggest challenge of the district at all times is ensuring that our students are learning, and to do so in a time where we’re still dealing with a pandemic, where we still have illness or we still have people out of work, or we still have families that are dealing with loss, where we’re dealing with a tremendous amount of social and emotional trauma,” Esserman said.

“Our students don’t have any motivation to be in school. There’s no drive. I think COVID did detrimental harm to our students. You know, my kid was in freshman year, excited to go to school, and then COVID came, and now he doesn’t want to do anything,” said Chavez.

As for parents, Chavez thinks the biggest issues are air conditioning in schools, the presence of school resource officers, and motivating youth post-pandemic.

“I believe the students are better off with no SROs in the school,” Chavez said. “It’s intimidation. You know, it’s especially as a parent of a black and indigenous son. You know, it’s feeding into the school-to-prison pipeline. If a student breaks a law, they can call the police. They don’t need police in the school.”

Here’s the schedule for the next community meetings: