The one-month window for Denver families to list their top school choices for next school year starts Tuesday and runs through Feb. 15.
Denver Public Schools expects to inform families of their school placement results in late March.
Denver Public Schools has a universal school choice system that allows families to use a single online form to request to attend any district-run or charter school in the city. Charter schools are publicly funded but independently run. This year, 60 of Denver’s 213 schools are charters.
While many school districts nationwide have a contentious relationship with charter schools, Denver is known for its collaboration with them, which includes the universal enrollment system. That collaboration has been the subject of criticism from parents, teachers, and community members who see the independent schools as siphoning students and resources from district-run schools.
The 93,000-student school district especially encourages families with children going into the so-called transition grades of kindergarten, sixth, and ninth grade to fill out a choice form. Families list their top five school choices, and the district uses a lottery system to assign students.
Schools can set their own enrollment priorities. Many district-run schools give high priority to students who live within their boundary and to siblings of current students, for example.
The district also has 15 “enrollment zones,” which are expanded boundaries with several schools in them. Students who live in zones are guaranteed a spot at one of the schools in the zone but not necessarily the school closest to them.
Denver has used zones as a way to increase school integration. Many neighborhoods in Denver are segregated by race and income, and the district’s reasoning is that widening boundaries provides the opportunity for a more diverse school population.
But a 2016 district analysis found that enlarging middle school boundaries had not decreased school segregation as much as district officials hoped it would.
The district also has a school integration pilot program that gives students from low-income families priority to enroll at schools that serve mostly students from affluent families. The results have been modest, and district officials are exploring ways to expand the impact.