The following letter was sent by DPS to Inspire families on September 14:
We’ve become aware of some concerns and questions in the community about what’s happening with the Call for New Quality Schools that DPS released in July, and we want to provide some updates and some clarity about the process.
As you know, DPS is seeking a new middle school to open in the 2019-20 school year that can serve the growing enrollment needs of the Greater Park Hill-Stapleton Middle School Enrollment Zone. We shared publicly that the new middle school would likely be built north of I-70, either attached to the Inspire campus or at a new building further north.
From the beginning of the design of the Park Street campus, it was intended to be big enough to house an elementary school and a middle school. And when the Denver Board of Education voted to place Inspire at the Park Street campus in 2016, the resolution stated that sharing a campus would be part of the plan.
DPS carefully considered the need for additional middle school seats in the zone – utilizing enrollment forecasts conducted by expert third-party researchers – and we are confident that a 500 to 600 student middle school will best respond to projected growth and provide for an effective SchoolChoice process for students and families.
Community involvement is an essential part of the Call for New Quality Schools process, and we invite you to become part of the community committee that reviews new school applications and provides feedback to inform the Denver Board of Education’s placement decisions.
How and when will the new middle school be identified?
The Call for New Quality Schools process gives all applicants a fair chance to apply to serve the needs identified by DPS and the priorities identified by the community. First, DPS will work with the Greater Park Hill-Stapleton community to understand what families want to see in a new middle school. This step will include independent polling of families in the enrollment zone, followed by public community meetings in late September.
In late October and November, DPS will closely review all applications and the board will approve only those that meet our rigorous standards for quality. The board will vote on which new school to place at the Park Street campus in December, guided by the Facility Allocation Policy. Community support is one of three key criteria they will use to select the new school, in addition to academic quality and alignment with district needs.
Why will the new middle school be built at the Park Street campus?
Apart from Park Street, DPS’ only remaining school site north of I-70 is not yet ready for construction, as the legal process of transferring ownership from Forest City is not complete and essential utilities like water and electricity are not in place. This makes the Park Street campus the best option for the new middle school to begin serving students in the fall of 2019.
DPS was able to build Inspire Elementary thanks to voter-supported tax increment financing (TIF) funds. The building was designed to be flexible enough to serve early childhood through middle school students, including appropriately-sized facilities like the play field and gym.
This Tuesday, the Denver Board of Education met to discuss financing for the construction project and understand what would be possible; they will vote on the financing at their meeting next Thursday.
Will Inspire and the new middle school always share a campus?
For the 2019-20 school year, Inspire Elementary will share the Park Street campus with the new middle school, which will open with just the sixth grade in its first year. The new middle school will grow by one grade each year until all three grades are complete in the 2021-22 school year. Although we won’t know which new middle school the board and the community will select until the full Call for New Quality Schools process is complete in December, we are certain that Inspire will share a campus with a middle school for the foreseeable future.
What are the benefits of a shared campus?
Campus sharing is a placement solution that lets DPS serve more students with the facilities we already have available. Shared campuses equitably use district facilities for the greatest benefit of our students, and ensures that DPS remains a responsible steward of public funds.
What is DPS doing to support Inspire Elementary?
We are committed to helping Inspire and its principal, Dr. Marisol Enriquez, become the best elementary school possible. The school currently serves kindergarten through third grade, and will be focused on growing over the next few years to serve fourth and fifth grade students.
Dr. Enriquez and her team have weekly school visits and coaching sessions with the school’s instructional superintendent, designed to support Inspire’s specialized focus on early literacy instruction and provide targeted interventions for kindergarten through third grade. The Inspire team also gets extra support from instructional content experts, and participates in six-week cycles of individual student progress monitoring.
As more school performance data becomes available this fall, DPS will determine the right level of tiered support for Inspire, such as extra resources and funding if needed. Inspire is also the recipient of a STEM grant to enhance math and science opportunities as well as a grant that will fund a community garden.
How can I get involved in the Call for New Quality Schools process?
If you’d like to be on the community committee that reviews new school applications, please email CNQS@dpsk12.org. We welcome your feedback and perspective. Other ways to stay involved include:
- Reading the Call document and other related materials at http://bit.ly/GPHSCall.
- Checking out the detailed timeline at http://bit.ly/GPHSTimeline.
- Sharing your perspective at upcoming DPS community meetings.
- Learning more about the schools applying to serve students and families at the new middle school by attending a community event.
- Joining our mailing list to stay up-to-date on the process – email firstname.lastname@example.org to sign up.
We will be sharing more information over the coming weeks with the entire enrollment zone. I look forward to hearing your feedback and questions throughout the Call process.