Back in July, Denver Public Schools identified a need for a new middle school that would serve the greater Park Hill and Stapleton neighborhoods, citing significant enrollment growth in the Stapleton area.
The district hosted a series of community meetings assessing the community’s desires for the potential school. Now that those conversations have concluded, the application process for competing school providers has taken center stage.
There are currently three education providers taking part in the process. Those institutions include Denver Green School, Beacon Network Schools, and High Tech K-8 school. All three of these schools are innovation schools, but according to Maya Agana, Senior Director of Portfolio Management at DPS, that is not an intentional push on the part of the district, as DPS has stated they have no bias towards the type of middle school that will be placed in the area.
It’s not an easy process for all parents to follow, but the community has shown up.
Kacey Martinez, a north Stapleton resident and a parent of a 4th grader and a kindergartner, says the need for a new middle school in the area is apparent, and she’s been thinking about this process since her oldest child began school.
“One priority as a parent we have is having a middle school where my daughter feels safe. I also would like a strong academic school that could prepare my daughter for high school,” Martinez said.
While the process has been welcoming, she feels that many parents have been overwhelmed by the amount of information they have received and may not then understand the importance of their participation. She is also concerned that because of this disconnect many parents do not know where their entry point into the process is.
She feels that this an excellent step for the neighborhood as the Stapleton community continues to grow.
“Stapleton is going to continue to grow, so I feel like one more middle school option is good. I personally as a parent feel like we need another great option. We have a lot of good options, but we need another great option,” Martinez said.
Hasira Ashemu, leader of the education advocacy group Our Voice Our Schools, says it’s important to think about this new middle school in the context of the larger conversation about the state of equitable education in Denver.
“The most important thing to know about this is, what type of school are they talking about putting in there,” Ashemu said. “It’s part of an ongoing effort to whiten a city and privatize public education.”
Ashemu is concerned that network schools are insidiously connected to gentrification efforts the city, and what he feels is a concerning trend towards the privatization of Denver’s educational system via network schools.
Here’s what happens now.
(There’s a timeline that outlines all of this.)
At the end of October, schools will turn in their first round of applications and the Board of Education and external experts will review those schools to see if they meet DPS’ basic requirements of a quality school. After that, in mid-November, the Board of Education will make a decision on whether or not they have met the quality school threshold.
Qualifying schools will then go into a placement assessment which will determine if they are the best fit for the district and community’s needs. Once again a cohort of community members, DPS staff and external stakeholders will review the applications, but this time they will make a recommendation to the DPS superintendent.
The Board of Education will have the final say, and they will vote on which school will receive placement a couple of days before Christmas, on December 20th.