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Denver school officials give nod to most new school applicants

Updated: Almost all of the potential new school applicants got the nod from district officials at Monday’s midday school board meeting .

District officials recommended approving thirteen of the sixteen potential schools to open in the 2015-16 school year. Two applicants withdrew from the running and three were encouraged to rework their proposals for next year’s application process.

The board also heard from officials on where schools would be located, including for the controversial Hampden Heights campus. Despite rumors that a charter, Rocky Mountain Prep, was the anointed candidate, district officials opted to push for a district-run school lead by Laurie Godwin. Godwin currently heads up Tollgate Elementary School in Aurora.

Alyssa Whitehead-Bust, the district’s chief of innovation, cited the district-run school’s inclusion of the campus’ natural areas in instruction as a primary reason for its selection.

And officials also responded to community concerns about the Stapleton high school boundary decision, lowering the number of seats allotted for low-income students and giving Far Northeast students priority for open seats not filled by neighborhood students.

Board members met the district’s recommendations with support. Northwest Denver representative Arturo Jiménez praised the district for its close look at the proposed discipline policies at Westside Academy, which officials did not recommend for approval. See the full documentation of the district’s recommendations here.

The board will make its final decision next Thursday.

Previous story:
Denver district officials will make recommendations today to the school board on who should get to open a new school in 2015-16 — and who should not.

The district presentations, which begin at noon, will cover 18 district and charter applicants, with the majority coming from longstanding charter networks like DSST and KIPP. District officials are expected to make a recommendation on who will run the school at Hampden Heights, a decision which has faced some controversy over accusations the district anointed a charter applicant, Rocky Mountain Prep, months ago.

The district School Accountability and Improvement Council, which is composed of community members, released its recommendations for approval late last week. Among the schools it did not recommend for approval were Rocky Mountain Prep and SEED High School, a STEM-focused charter applicant in the Far Northeast. Those will also be discussed at Monday’s meeting.

See below for an interactive map of all applicants hoping to open a new school. Red pins indicate a charter applicant; blue pins indicate a district-run applicant. For most, the location of the pin indicates the region the applicant selected but not the exact location, which has not been decided. The exceptions are applicants hoping to be placed at Hampden Heights or Manual High School.

District officials will also make recommendations on where approved schools should be placed, an issue the board must vote on as well.

Also on the table

Denver school officials are also expected to present their recommendations on any boundary decisions in the city. This year, that includes the boundary for Stapleton’s new high school, expected to open in 2015-16.

The school itself has been a source of tension between community members and the district, after district officials announced the initial designs would be scaled back.

The boundaries have proved less controversial. One of the top priorities for the school was that it be diverse and the boundary decision is expected to ensure that, although exactly how remains a source of debate.

District officials presented a preliminary recommendation to the Stapleton community last week at a meeting where community members pushed back on some aspects. The initial recommendation required that 40 percent of the school’s capacity be set aside for low-income students, with preference for students from Park Hill and Far Northeast. Members of the district-convened boundary advisory group requested a number of changes, including preference for only the Far Northeast in the lottery process for seats not filled by neighborhood students.

The group, along with some community members, also pushed the district for better communication with communities who would be affected by the boundary. That included a strip of houses on Monaco St. who would no longer attend George Washington High School as their neighborhood high school, but would attend the as yet unnamed Stapleton high school instead.

Community members who would like to offer their own input on any of these topics will have a chance Thursday during a special public comment session. The board will vote on all the above decisions on June 12th. For more information on how to attend or participate, visit the district website on the process.

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