Southwest Denver parents and community members demanded Thursday that the Denver Public Schools Board of Education create a task force to address the lack of resources and poor performance in the area’s schools.
Their requests follow last week’s rally, where parent and student leaders of Stand of Children Colorado and Padres y Jovenes Unidos voiced their disappointment in the board’s lack of involvement and interest in the schools’ success.
A report issued by A+ Denver in April put what parents already knew into numbers, Mateos Alvarez, the Denver metro director for Stand for Children Colorado, said. The report states that only one-in-10 graduating high school seniors is college ready. Out of the 42 schools in southwest Denver, only seven received a grade of B or higher on the state’s system.
Parent Ana Munoz represented 55 families from the area’s one failing school — Val Verde Elementary. Munoz told the board that she and other parents had brought their concerns to the school’s principal, but they were ignored. Val Verde parent Ariana Hernandez said the principal was upset when she found out the parents would be addressing the board about the failing school.
Maria Galvan, a parent leader for Stand for Children Colorado, said the students in southwest Denver deserve the same educational opportunities that are offered in the far northeast. Angelica Castro, parent of three, said the board is responsible for these schools’ success.
“Success in an elementary school is based on good leadership,” Castro said. “We all feel very disappointed at the academic level (the schools) are at, and in the leadership we have in southwest Denver.”
Padres y Jovenes Unidos member Sandra Reva presented the board with a list of changes parents and students want to see in the southwest: longer school days and years, prompt academic interventions for children who are struggling, better food options, and restorative justice as school discipline in lieu of suspension, expulsions and police involvement, which parents said only aids the school-to-prison pipeline. Reva said longer school days and years would allow the inclusion of sports and tutoring for all students.
“We are certain that by incorporating these points, we can prepare southwest Denver students for college and to be active community members,” Reva said.
The district’s turnaround plan for Kepner Middle School has sparked more interest in the state of other schools in the southwest, as parents and advocates have demanded the district focus more of its efforts there.
Parents were pleased with the news that the board approved a STRIVE Prep middle school and district-run school to co-locate the former Kepner Middle School campus, but said more needs to be done. With a population that is more than 80 percent Latino and 90 percent impoverished, the success of schools plays an important role in bettering the community.
“Education lifts people out of poverty,” southwest Denver community member Denise Maes said. “It keeps them out of prison.”
Three schools have been approved to open in the area for the upcoming 2014-15 school year: STRIVE Prep Southwest Middle School, Southwest Community Denver School and a to-be-determined district-run middle school. The board approved the co-location of one of its new district-run schools with STRIVE Prep Southwest Middle School.
Update: This story has been updated. It previously stated that the former Kepner Middle School would be replaced with an expeditionary school, but the board approved STRIVE Prep Middle School and another district-run school to co-locate the facility. An expeditionary school has been approved to open at the Hampden Heights facility.