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A KIPP Montbello Elementary school student at a Denver Public Schools board meeting.

A KIPP Montbello Elementary school student at a Denver Public Schools board meeting.

Nicholas Garcia

Denver school board approves $628 million bond and mill package, new charter schools

Denver voters will be asked in November to raise an additional $628 million in taxes to pay for school construction and the expansion of educational programs after the Denver school board Thursday voted unanimously in favor of a bond and mill levy override.

The board also approved two new charter schools and voted to place three other charter schools in buildings owned by the school district.

The $572 million bond would allow Denver Public Schools to build new schools, renovate old ones, install heat mitigation systems such as air conditioning in its hottest schools and increase the number of schools able to provide devices such as computers to every student.

“There’s a lot of good things in this proposal for schools, especially the hottest schools,” said board member Rosemary Rodriguez.

Due to rising property values and decreasing debt, DPS figures it can raise the $572 million without increasing the current tax rate.

A $56.6 million mill levy override would pay for more school psychologists, social workers and nurses. That money would also be used to expand a program in which teachers coach their peers and one that allows students to explore career options, among others.

“I just think it’s a really thoughtful investment in our students,” said board member Barbara O’Brien.

The mill levy override would mean a property tax increase of about $110 per year for a Denver home valued at $329,000, which is the median home price in the gentrifying city.

One of the new charters schools approved is another link in the local charter chain STRIVE Prep. The school will likely replace a chronically low-performing southwest Denver elementary school that might be closed under a new policy set to go into effect this fall.

The second charter school approved is the Boys School of Denver. The school would be modeled after DPS’ Girls Athletic Leadership School, a girls-only middle and high school.

Both schools are scheduled to open in the fall of 2017.

About 18 percent of the district’s 91,429 students in preschool through 12th grade attended charter schools this past school year.

The board did not approve one other school that applied: The Sports Leadership and Management Academy of Colorado. The Florida-based school is affiliated with Miami rapper Pitbull, and its model provides high school students with internships in fields such as sports medicine, sports marketing and entertainment management.

In addition, the board voted to place the KIPP Montbello Elementary and KIPP Montbello College Prep Middle school at the Far Northeast Campus 28 building and a new DSST middle school at the Rachel B. Noel campus in Montbello. KIPP Montbello Elementary opened this past school year in a temporary space and will move to its new permanent home in the fall of 2017. DSST IX, a middle school that plans to focus on humanities, is scheduled to open this fall.

The board previously approved an expansion of McGlone Elementary in far northeast Denver.

In other action Thursday, the board unanimously approved a revision to the district’s family engagement policy that attempts to provide more regulations and oversight for schools.

“It means changing the way some of our schools do business and how they relate to their parents,” said board member Happy Haynes.

— Chalkbeat reporter Melanie Asmar contributed. 

Correction: An earlier version of this article incorrectly reported when KIPP Montbello Elementary will move to its new building. It will move in the fall of 2017, not 2016.