7 schools ap­ply to lo­cate at site va­cated by Gilpin Montes­sori

The Denver Post - - NEWS - By Me­lanie As­mar

Seven Den­ver schools have ap­plied to lo­cate their pro­grams in the north­east Den­ver school build­ing that un­til this spring housed Gilpin Montes­sori el­e­men­tary school.

They in­clude six char­ter schools and one district-run school. Four of the seven are al­ready op­er­at­ing in other build­ings. The other three pro­grams are not yet open.

In a gen­tri­fy­ing city where real es­tate is at a pre­mium and the num­ber of ex­ist­ing school build­ings is lim­ited, se­cur­ing a suit­able lo­ca­tion that af­fords enough room to grow is one of the big­gest hur­dles new schools face.

Every year, Den­ver Pub­lic Schools so­lic­its ap­pli­ca­tions from schools seek­ing to use its avail­able build­ings. The process for the for­mer Gilpin build­ing is sep­a­rate; the school board is ex­pected to vote in De­cem­ber on a pro­gram or pro­grams to take up res­i­dence in fall 2018.

The seven ap­pli­cants are: • Com­pas­sion Road Academy, a district-run al­ter­na­tive high school cur­rently lo­cated near West 10th Av­enue and Speer Boule­vard that had 172 stu­dents last school year.

• The Boys School, an all­boys char­ter mid­dle school that opened this year with 87 sixth-graders in rented space in a north­west Den­ver church and plans to add more grades.

• Den­ver Lan­guage School Mid­dle School, a K-8 char­ter school that served 715 stu­dents — 101 in mid­dle school — last year and is cur­rently split be­tween two cam­puses in east Den­ver.

• Colorado High School Char­ter GES, a char­ter al­ter­na­tive high school that opened this year in west Den­ver. It is the char­ter’s sec­ond cam­pus in the district.

• Down­town Den­ver Ex­pe­di­tionary School Mid­dle School, a char­ter school that served 402 kin­der­garten through fifth-graders last year in the build­ing that houses DPS head­quar­ters. It is ap­proved to serve grades 6, 7 and 8, as well, but has not yet opened a mid­dle school pro­gram.

• 5280 High School, a char­ter high school ap­proved but not yet open that would of­fer a pro­gram for stu­dents in re­cov­ery from ad­dic­tion, eat­ing dis­or­ders and other chal­lenges.

• The CUBE, a per­son­al­ized learn­ing char­ter high school not yet open.

The district is cur­rently re­view­ing the ap­pli­ca­tions to make sure they meet the ini­tial cri­te­ria it set, said DPS spokes­woman Alex Ren­te­ria: The schools must be cur­rently op­er­at­ing or pre­vi­ously ap­proved sec­ondary schools with en­roll­ments of 600 stu­dents or fewer.

Com­mu­nity meet­ings sched­uled for Nov. 18 and Dec. 2 will pro­vide an op­por­tu­nity for com­mu­nity mem­bers to meet the ap­pli­cants and “pro­vide feed­back on their align­ment with the com­mu­nity pri­or­i­ties,” ac­cord­ing to a district pre­sen­ta­tion. Com­mu­nity pri­or­i­ties are one of the mea­sures by which the ap­pli­cants will be judged, the pre­sen­ta­tion says. The oth­ers are aca­demic per­for­mance, fa­cil­ity need and en­roll­ment de­mand, it says.

A fa­cil­ity place­ment com­mit­tee will re­view the ap­pli­ca­tions and make a rec­om­men­da­tion to Su­per­in­ten­dent Tom Boas­berg the week of Dec. 11, Ren­te­ria said. Boas­berg is ex­pected to make his rec­om­men­da­tion Dec. 18 to the school board, which will vote Dec. 21.

The com­mit­tee will in­clude five district staff mem­bers and four com­mu­nity mem­bers, in­clud­ing two from the neigh­bor­hood, Ren­te­ria said. Ap­pli­ca­tions from com­mu­nity mem­bers to serve on the com­mit­tee are due Tues­day, and mem­bers will be se­lected by Fri­day, she said.

The Gilpin build­ing is avail­able be­cause the el­e­men­tary school that pre­vi­ously oc­cu­pied it closed at the end of last school year. Us­ing a district pol­icy to close schools with low test scores and lag­ging aca­demic growth, the school board voted last De­cem­ber to per­ma­nently shut­ter Gilpin Montes­sori and restart two other el­e­men­tary schools: John Amesse and Green­lee.

The district’s ra­tio­nale for clos­ing Gilpin rather than restart­ing it with a new el­e­men­tary pro­gram was based on en­roll­ment: With just 202 stu­dents last year, it was the district’s sec­onds­mall­est el­e­men­tary school — and DPS en­roll­ment pro­jec­tions showed fur­ther de­clines in the num­ber of el­e­men­tary-school-aged chil­dren in the neigh­bor­hood, which is gen­tri­fy­ing.

A re­cent anal­y­sis by the Den­ver Re­gional Coun­cil of Gov­ern­ments and the Pi­ton Foun­da­tion’s Shift Re­search Lab showed a sim­i­lar trend: ris­ing home prices and rents, and a build­ing boom that re­sulted in thou­sands of new hous­ing units from 2012 to 2016 but just 23 new stu­dents.

Chalk­beat Colorado is a non­profit news or­ga­ni­za­tion cov­er­ing ed­u­ca­tion is­sues. For more, visit chalk­beat.org/co.

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