The Denver school district has identified 15 schools with enrollment that is low enough that they could be candidates for closing.
However, the Denver Post reports, Superintendent Alex Marrero is offering the school board new options to address declining student numbers that stop short of shuttering campuses.
The district’s latest plan to address declining enrollment is broader than last fall’s rejected proposal to close 10 schools.
It proposes several actions — including phasing out grades and “co-locating” schools on the same property — that the board could adopt rather than simply closing schools with fewer than 215 students.
However, three schools — Denver Discovery, Mathematics and Science Leadership Academy, and Fairview Elementary — are considered to have “critically low enrollment” and could close this year, depending on the recommendation Marrero presents to the school board in March.
Those schools have fewer than 120 students apiece. Denver Discovery, a middle school, is projected to have just 62 students next year.
For these three schools, Marrero recommends the district engage the community on three potential options:
- Phasing out grades by not enrolling new kindergarteners or sixth-graders.
- Closing schools and “unifying” their student bodies with other nearby schools.
- Considering “other school community-generated options.”
Twelve other schools are considered to have “concerning enrollment,” meaning they have fewer than 215 students apiece. They are:
- International Academy of Denver at Harrington
- Columbian Elementary
- Schmitt Elementary
- Hallett Academy
- Palmer Elementary
- Kaiser Elementary
- Whittier K-8
- Colfax Elementary
- Eagleton Elementary
- Ashley Elementary
- Beach Court Elementary
- Cole Arts & Sciences Academy
Marrero wants to spend the next six months engaging the community around several potential outcomes for the schools, including possibly closing them, before he presents a final recommendation to the board in September.
The options proposed by the superintendent include maintaining existing small schools, which means the district would continue to financially subsidize their operations, or phasing out grades by not enrolling new kindergarteners or sixth-graders. The district also could decide to “co-locate” schools in another building, close schools, or revise school boundaries or feeder patterns.
Districtwide, enrollment has fallen for three consecutive years. Enrollment among elementary-aged children began falling after 2014.
Marrero had recommended closing 10 schools last year, before eventually narrowing the proposal to two: Denver Discovery and Mathematics and Science Leadership Academy. In November, the board voted not to close those schools.
Now, administrators and the school board are again exploring whether to close schools because the district is facing a potential $9 million budget shortfall.