We know that students thrive when their school has the resources to provide consistent staffing, robust academics, whole child support and meaningful enrichment programs. However, due to significant declines in enrollment caused by lower birth rates and a changing housing market, our smallest schools are struggling to offer these critical supports to all students. For the past several years enrollment has been declining. Denver expects an additional loss of approximately 3,000 students over the next 4 years. Because school funding is primarily based on enrollment, this will result in an annual loss of $36 million to schools across Denver.
Schools with the biggest drops in enrollment are receiving district subsidized funding to ensure basic programming is provided in order to keep these schools operational. This costs approximately 50% more per student. This additional payment is simply keeping the schools open, without robust programs or student support. Plus, in many cases this requires combining students across multiple grades into a single classroom, as well as cutting support staff to the minimum allowable requirements.
Through the DPS Strategic Roadmap we seek to dismantle the oppressive structures our system perpetuates, and replace them with equitable, transparent systems. We recognize the difficulty of these decisions and commit to humanizing this process beyond what has traditionally happened throughout the nation when school closures and consolidations have needed to take place. We commit to a process that results in schools with increased, sustainable enrollment, by bringing together the students and communities. School consolidation is about bringing communities together to solve for the enrollment decline, not because of school performance concerns, and we will treat them as such. In very rare instances, a small school may need to consolidate within an enrollment zone versus a specific school.
As we shared in September, we are working to determine how to apply the Declining Enrollment Advisory Committee’s (DEAC) criteria for identifying schools for consolidation or closure. In June, the DEAC delivered this robust recommendation to me and my team. Board members will vote on next steps on school consolidation in November.
Dr. Alex Marrero