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A Manual-East partnership among plans floated for school’s future

Students may be reeling from a barrage of changes at Denver’s Manual High School, but preliminary plans being floated by the district suggest more change is still to come.

Manual, which has been at the center of education reform debates in the city for decades, saw a mid-year leadership change six weeks ago. Don Roy, the school’s new principal, quickly introduced a number of new policies, including a crackdown on tardiness and attendance and the end of the school’s nearly year-round schedule.

To addresss long-term changes, the district has convened a “vision committee” consisting of district and school staff, alumni and community members, who will discuss what shape the school’s academic program should take and hear from potential school leaders — including Roy — about their ideas for the school’s future.

And the wheels are already turning on changes that would go into effect during the 2015-2016 school year. Early this week, the district released an addendum adding Manual and Kepner Middle School, which has also struggled over the past few years, to its annual “Call for New Quality Schools,” which solicits applications for new schools and school overhauls.

The addendum laid out several potential paths for Manual including introducing a totally new district-run or charter school, a school redesign led by current school employees and the hiring of a new leader who will submit their own design.

But a district spokesman said the call is not intended to signal the end of Manual’s current program will be replaced.

“We are not using the Call for New Quality Schools to look for a replacement for the current program at Manual High School,” said district spokesperson Mike Vaughn.

Instead it was intended to provide detailed information to candidates who have expressed interest in bringing programs to the Manual campus.

“The “Call” addendum that was sent out Tuesday is intended to give detailed information about the community process that will help shape the future of Manual to those groups who expressed interest in a new program at that campus,” Vaughn said.

Among those likely to surface in the next several months is a proposal from East High School principal Andy Mendelsberg to combine the Manual and East student bodies. Manual would run a ninth grade academy and all tenth to twelfth graders would attend East.

The goal would be to combine “a school that is bursting at the seams and a school in a beautiful facility that’s not as full,” said Mendelsberg.

But, he said, there’s a lot to be ironed out.

“If there’s some kind of movement that way, is it a partnership or an offshoot of East?” said Mendelsberg.

And nothing is likely to be definite anytime soon.

“My impression is this is still way down the road,” he said. “It’s certainly not a possibility for next year.”

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