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DPS puts East-Manual plans on hold

There will be no formal partnership between East and Manual High Schools at least until the 2016 school year, Denver Public Schools officials said in a pair of letters sent to parents Friday.

Acknowledging concerns among parents in both communities, superintendent Tom Boasberg said more time was needed.

“I believe this proposal has its strong elements, but it also raises many questions that we need to discuss in detail with both the East and Manual communities,” Boasberg said in a letter to Manual parents. “I want to ensure that whatever course we choose to pursue at Manual is done right and that it will have the greatest positive impact on all of Manual’s students. That’s why I believe we need more time to explore the options that exist, including for a Manual- East partnership.”

In February, Chalkbeat reported a potential ninth-grade academy for students at both schools, which would be located at the Manual campus in northeast Denver. East principal Andy Mendelsberg put forward the plan during a call for new proposals for the campus, following the firing of former principal Brian Dale and the cessation of certain aspects of the school’s social justice program. The firing came on the heels of a series of articles published by Chalkbeat chronicling the school’s plummeting academic performance and mismanagement of funds.

The proposal, supporters said, was intended to offer the students of the Manual community a better educational option and curb overcrowding at East, one of the city’s most popular high school.

However, it’s unclear if Manual’s mostly Black and Latino students would fare any better under a partnership with East, given East’s “shocking” achievement gaps.

It wouldn’t be the first time the two schools have shared students. In the 1980s and 90’s, students at the two schools could take classes at the other campus.

A district-convened group of parents, staff and community members known as the “Thought Partners” met over the past two months to discuss the school’s future. Last week, they heard from Mendelsberg who had combined forces with a group who had put forward a proposal for a STEM academy at Manual. A third plan, put forward by current staff and students, was not presented and some involved said district officials discouraged them from continuing their work.

Community members responded to the revised plans with anger and frustration at the lack of transparency and the perceived takeover of the Manual campus by East High School. Another meeting will be held next Tuesday at 6 p.m. at East High School to discuss the plan.

The full letters to both communities are below: