Like other school districts in the metro area, Denver Public Schools (DPS) is facing significant declines in enrollment caused by lower birth rates and a changing housing market. This situation is causing the school district’s smallest schools to struggle to provide consistent staffing, robust academics, whole-child support and meaningful enrichment programs.
To address how declining enrollment has negatively impacted the school district, the DPS Board of Education supported the Superintendent’s recommendation in November 2021 to lead a process to make recommendations to address the enrollment challenges facing DPS Elementary and Middle Schools. The Declining Enrollment Advisory Committee (DEAC) was formed in the spring of 2022 to bring many voices and expertise to the table to tackle this complex challenge. In June 2022, the DEAC delivered a robust recommendation on guiding criteria for identifying and unifying schools. Based on the first criteria addressing schools with critically low enrollment of under 215 and each school’s unique context, here is the list of recommended schools for unification for the upcoming school year (2023-24).
School Unification Plan
- Columbian Elementary will unify with Trevista at Trevista
- Palmer Elementary will unify with Montclair School of Academics and Enrichment K-5 grades at Montclair and ECE at Palmer
- Math Science Leadership Academy (MSLA) will unify with Valverde Elementary at Valverde
- Schmitt Elementary will unify with Godsman Elementary at Godsman
- Eagleton Elementary will unify with Cowell Elementary at Cowell
- 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
- Denver Discovery School will unify with schools in the Greater Park Hill – Central Park Enrollment zone
- Whittier K-8 will unify with schools in the Greater Five Points Elementary Enrollment Zone and the Near Northeast Middle School Enrollment Zone
This consolidation recommendation of 10 elementary and middle schools allows them to unify with other schools or regions in the school district. The School Unification Plan will be presented to the Board of Education on Thursday, Nov. 3, and the Board of Education will vote on the recommendation on Thursday, Nov. 17.
“We know that these decisions are not easy for our community, but they are necessary for our scholars,” said Superintendent Dr. Alex Marrero. “We’ve applied the recommended criteria. We’ve learned from past efforts. And, we have learned from neighboring districts. These recommendations will not only help right-size our school district, they will allow our scholars access to more well-rounded educational experiences, and will also put the school district in a position to better address our staffing needs across the district.”
In the past five years, elementary and middle school enrollment has declined by more than 6,000 students, resulting in a loss of $61 million annually in taxes that fund our schools. DPS expects an additional loss of approximately 3,000 elementary and middle school students over the next four years resulting in an additional loss of $36 million in funding to our schools.
All school-based staff will have a guaranteed role, and we are offering teachers and other school-based staff an opportunity to follow their current students in the unifying school. Each unifying school will host family meetings in the coming days and weeks to allow school and district leaders to hear from families and to provide direction for the next steps.
Learn more about the next steps in the process.