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District approves 'short-term' fix for Stapleton overcrowding

6:43 PM, Dec 1, 2009   |    comments
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"It's a matter of space and overcrowding," Meyer, a mother of two young girls, said. "The classes are just too big."

Stapleton currently has two schools, Bill Roberts K-8 and Westerly Creek Elementary. Both buildings are filled to capacity and Meyer says there's a wave of children coming.

"Two-year-olds are the largest group here in Stapleton," Meyer said.

Meyer plans to have her children attend Westerly Creek Elementary. It shares a building with the Odyssey Charter School, which is also filled, with a long waiting list.

Westerly Creek Principal Jill Corcoran says she expects to fill eight kindergarten classes next fall in her school with already 370 students from pre-school to third grade.

"That's roughly about 200 students in kindergarten," Corcoran said.

Corcoran applauds the plans approved Monday night by the Denver Public School Board. One proposal includes moving Odyssey Charter School to its own building, taking over the current Phillips Elementary. Phillips would then be closed.

"It's going to allow Westerly Creek the time and also give us the space that is needed," Corcoran said. "It's a great short-term solution."

Westerly Creek will be able to fit an additional 300 students in the classroom space to be vacated by Odyssey. The district also agreed to front the money for a third school to be built in Stapleton.

When the area was re-developed, part of the agreement was that the first five schools in Stapleton would be built by money generated from sales and property tax revenue under plan of Tax Increment Financing.

Developers blame the economy for the revenue falling short, preventing the building of a third school until now.

The district will now lend up to $5 million from DPS bond money matching funds from the city to build another school. Eventually, the district will be paid back with interest from the TIF collections.

"If they had sat on the problem and not addressed it, I think you would have had quite a few people moving out of Stapleton or really taking drastic measures," Meyer said.

DPS Superintendent Tom Boasberg says Stapleton moves along with using Odyssey to replace a failing Phillips Elementary program; it strengthens education around northeast Denver.

"Quebec and Montview should only be streets on a map," Boasberg said. "They can't be dividing lines for educational opportunity."

Across the city, pre-school programs for three-year-olds will be cut. Meyer says that is a big disappointment in the new plans. But she says what DPS is doing is a good start to problem that she says won't go away soon.

"It's a going to be a long haul, but I am pleased with some of the decisions they made last night," Meyer said.

Here is a complete list of approved reforms:

Far Northeast
- Turnaround of Northeast Academy Charter School - The Board of Education has approved an intensive school transformation initiative, including a comprehensive reorganization of the school's academic program, in consultation and partnership with an education-management organization.
- Co-Locations of SOAR, DSST, Multiple-Pathway Center at new Green Valley Ranch E-12 Campus
- SOAR (charter school): Grades K-5 (over time); will serve 428 students at capacity; will provide a holistic educational approach with rigorous academic instruction and an extended school day; replication of FLI Academy in Harlem, NY-a proven model that has a school-wide proficiency rate of 85percent in English language arts and 84percent in math; plans to start with about 230 kindergarten through second-grade students in fall of 2010.
- Denver School of Science and Technology (charter school): Grades 6-12 (over time); will serve 800 students at capacity; a liberal arts college preparatory school with a science and technology focus; replication of a proven model-the only DPS high school that is rated as "Distinguished" on the SPF and is the highest-performing school in the district; plans to start with about 140 6th-graders in fall of 2010.
- Multiple-Pathway Center: Currently, the multiple pathways (or alternative options/transfer schools) in DPS are extremely limited for the district's size and difficult to access from some parts of the city; the center would serve students in grades 9-12 who are over age and under credit and have not experienced success in traditional high schools and/or are not engaged in traditional high school offerings. The Board approved a Multiple Pathways Center to open at the Green Valley Ranch Campus starting in 2011-12, and to open an additional center in the fall of 2010 in Southwest Denver, at a location to be determined.

- Replacement of Philips Elementary School - The Board approved that Philips be closed and replaced in fall of 2010 with Odyssey Charter School, which currently resides in Westerly Creek Elementary School. Philips' neighborhood students in grades K-4 will be offered seats at Stapleton schools (Roberts or Westerly Creek) or Park Hill for the 2010-2011 school year. Students who currently choice-in to Philips will return to their home school or choice to other district schools.
- Closure of Skyland Charter School - The Board has approved that Skyland's charter contract not be renewed. The majority of students live in the attendance areas of Manual, East, George Washington and outside the district. Better-performing options are available for those students in these high schools, as well as in Colorado High School Charter and Community Challenge School.
- Solutions to Stapleton Overcrowding-Rapid growth in student demand requires provision of additional capacity; near and mid-term solutions were developed with strong community input and civic leadership, with a focus on high quality schools that reflect the diversity of the Stapleton ring community; relocation of Odyssey Charter School, construction of third elementary school, temporary ECE center in Westerly Creek facility, and boundary change with Philips will address capacity concerns for near and mid-term.
- Location of Denver Language School at former Whiteman - The charter school would serve about 470 K-8 students at full capacity and offer full immersion in Mandarin and Spanish; would open with about 200 K-2 students in fall of 2010.
- Location of Denver Green School at former Fallis - The Performance School will serve about 550 E-8 students at capacity; will implement a flexible, student-centered, standards-based curriculum that will emphasize hands-on and project-based learning with an emphasis on environmental sustainability; will open in fall of 2010 with about 240 preschool-2 and sixth-grade students. Students who live in the Mayfair community portion of the Denver Green School boundary will have a choice preference to attend Lowry Elementary School for grades three through five and Hill Middle School for grades six through eight, until Denver Green School reaches full grade capacity.

- Turnaround/Restart of Greenlee Elementary School - The Board approved the administration's recommendation that Greenlee change from a ECE-8 school to a ECE-5 school and that a comprehensive literacy program be implemented for the 2010-2011 school year. Students currently in ECE through grade four will be able to continue at Greenlee next year without disruption. Students currently in grades five, six and seven will be offered seats at Manny Martinez Charter School, which will become a boundary school, or Dora Moore.
- Turnaround of Lake Middle School and Co-Location with West Denver Prep #3-The Board approved an amended recommendation on Lake Middle School. It includes the following actions:
- Strengthen the International Baccalaureate Middle Years Program (IBMYP) at Lake International School;
- Students currently in grades six and seven will be able to continue at the Lake International School in a combined IBMYP 7th and 8th Grade Academy next year without disruption;
- The incoming Lake sixth grade class will be part of an IBMYP sixth Grade Academy program with a new principal who will have the ability to choose her own staff; this academy will be smaller and more focused and will grow one grade at a time over the next three years.
- The Lake facility will become a shared campus with West Denver Prep School #3, which will begin operating with sixth grade students in the 2010-2011 school year.
- There will be a common boundary for both the Lake IB and West Denver Prep programs, with families able to choose which program they want their child to attend.
- Location of West Denver Prep #4-The Board deferred a decision on location of West Denver Prep #4 for 30 days.
- One-year renewal of PS 1 Charter School and replacement through the new-school RFP process-The Board approved a one-year renewal of the charter school renewal. Because this school serves a significant population of students with special needs who currently lack a strong set of other educational options, the Board granted PS 1 a one-year renewal, and the district will replace the school through the RFP process with a new school that can serve the existing students in the fall of 2011.

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