DENVER (KDVR) — Nearly 200 parents, students and teachers signed up to speak ahead of a Denver Public Schools board vote on closing schools.

“We elected you, we lifted you up, we believed in you and we’ve lost that,” parent Manuel Aragon told the DPS Board of Education on Monday night. “We hope we can get that again and you make the right decision to keep our schools open.”

This meeting comes nearly three weeks after DPS announced its closure plan. DPS said the main reason for the closures is declining enrollment numbers.

Denver Public Schools proposes 5 closures

Originally, 10 schools were set to close, but the district recently modified that number to five schools. DPS now proposes closing these five schools for the 2023-24 school year:

  • Denver Discovery School in Central Park
  • Schmitt Elementary in Ruby Hill
  • Fairview Elementary in Sun Valley
  • International Academy of Denver at Harrington in Clayton
  • Math Science Leadership Academy in Athmar Park

Out of the 10, district representatives say these five schools received the largest budget assistance.

“There’s a lot less bullying in these small schools,” sixth-grader Josefiina Hyland told the board Monday. “My friends went to Park Hill, which was a bigger school. She got bullied a lot, and if we send all these kids to big schools, it would have a big dent on mental health.”

DPS cites mental health resources as a reason for consolidating schools. Officials say smaller schools don’t have enough resources, and lower enrollment means lower budgets.

“Some kids perform better in smaller schools. Performance of kids in these schools hasn’t even been looked at,” parent Sara Nakon said. “We have been told our kids aren’t getting resources, but have you asked us how we feel about that or have you considered they have more resources because we are a smaller school?”

Parents worry timeline to closure is too quick

Along with value in smaller class sizes, parents want the board to consider the racial makeup of the schools considered for closure and the economic status of the families impacted.

“Our school is an anti-racist school. They are taught all are welcome, all are equal, but how can we teach our children that if that isn’t being taught to us?” parent Darcy Cornish said. “Why out of 10 schools, nine are Black and brown kids?”

While the board gave the public the floor Monday night and did not respond to pleas, members did share opening statements. Board Vice President Auon’tai Anderson, who said he will be voting no come Thursday, referred to the public meeting as a “performative show.”

“The timeline from decision to closure is too short, unrealistic and it causes a litany of potential problems,” parent Dianna Kessel said.

Kessel and other parents said DPS needs to consider other ways to tackle declining enrollment instead of rushing to a decision on Thursday.

“Ideas like changing boundaries, limiting or placing caps on schools that are bursting at the seams and are overcrowded and coming up with innovative alternative budgeting methods,” Kessel said.

Monday’s meeting was the only public comment DPS is having ahead of Thursday’s school board vote on the closures.