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Denver Public Schools once billed itself as the “fastest-growing urban district in the United States.”

A decade ago, DPS was in the midst of a rebirth. Enrollment swelled by thousands of students and new schools opened across the city as the district became renowned for controversial reforms that included closing low-performing schools.

But as DPS leaders touted the district’s rise, they also were realizing it was coming to an end.

The school district’s rapid growth began to falter after it added nearly 15,000 new students between 2008 and 2014. By 2015, records show, district leaders expressed concerns that falling birth rates and Denver’s high housing prices could lead to declining enrollment growth.

Now, following three consecutive years of falling enrollment, DPS administrators and board members are faced with a potential $9 million budget shortfall after the district failed to aggressively respond to trends its leaders had anticipated.

“We’ve known about this for a long time,” Scott Baldermann, a school board member elected in 2019, said of the downward enrollment trend. “From what I can tell, the district did not take this (enrollment) data into account.”

Today, 6,543 fewer elementary-aged children attend DPS schools than at that age group’s peak in 2014, and middle schoolers are declining, too. Yet the number of schools operated by DPS has largely stayed the same, despite the district’s per-pupil funding falling along with enrollment.

For students still in Denver classrooms, this means larger class sizes and fewer electives, such as art courses, and after-school activities.

— Full story via Jessica Seaman, The Denver Post 

Why does DPS have too many schools? Enrollment decline was years in the making — and district saw it coming

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