Denver Public Schools prepares to close schools as enrollment declines in coming years

Denver Public Schools is moving forward with its plan to close schools in anticipation that the district will continue to see enrollment in its K-12 schools fall in coming years, Superintendent Alex Marrero said during Thursday’s school board meeting.

The district will form a committee, made up of families and other community members, to determine what criteria should be used to determine if a school closes or consolidates. Applications for those interested in joining the committee will be available online starting Friday, he said.

DPS expects to announce which schools will close by the end of next year, with the closures going into effect during the 2024-25 academic year, according to Marrero’s presentation.

But it’s possible some schools will close sooner because they already are struggling, he said.

“There are some who are on life support now,” Marrero said.

Enrollment in public schools has fallen statewide during the pandemic, with the state Department of Education reporting Wednesday that there were 1,174 fewer K-12 students enrolled last fall compared with the previous year. The state saw a larger decline in enrollment during the 2020-21 school year, when more than 20,000 students left.

DPS, the state’s largest school district, saw enrollment in preschool through 12th grade decline by 172 people to 88,889 students in October, according to the education department.

More children are being home-schooled during the pandemic, and some families have moved out of state during the pandemic. A declining birthrate also is attributed to fewer students, according to education officials.

Marrero, in an interview before the meeting, also blamed gentrification and Denver’s high cost of living for the enrollment declines, which he said affects the ability of families and DPS employees to remain in the city.

“Many of the families we have traditionally served as a community can longer live here,” said Nicholas Martinez, executive director of Transform Education Now, who spoke during the public comments portion of the meeting.

When students go, so does money allocated to districts and schools. For example, the loss of 6,000 students would result in the loss of $78 million, Marrero said.

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