The Aurora Public Schools Board of Education has approved a charter school application for a grade 6-12 campus to be located in Stapleton Aurora on 25th Ave. between Fulton and Iola streets. The school would open in the fall of 2019 with a 6th grade class of 150 students, adding one grade per year thereafter. The high school would open in 2022 and by 2026 the campus would host 975 students.
This would be the first DSST school located outside of Denver. DSST currently serves about 5,000 students in 14 schools. The network’s new schools in Aurora would likely have a different name; DSST stands for the Denver School of Science and Technology.
The June 20 Board of Education vote was 5-2 in favor of the application, which also included a second DSST campus at a location to be determined, Aurora Public Schools (APS) and DSST now have 90 days to execute a contract detailing a variety of matters including performance standards and project funding. The school building is estimated to cost between $15 and $23 million and will be in the range of 110,000 square feet. A bond issue approved by APS voters in November set aside $12 million for the building. Superintendent Rico Munn has previously indicated he expects DSST to raise at least half of the money for the building. DSST has said only that it will support APS’s fund-raising efforts. The resolution approved by the BOE board set a March 30, 2018 deadline for coming up with the money for the campus.
During public comment, four speakers opposed the DSST application based on impacts to the APS budget by moving several hundred students out of traditional schools into a charter school. Three APS teachers and the president-elect of the Aurora Education Association, Bruce Wilcox, asked the board to deny or at least table the DSST application. The board attorney, Brandon Eyre, cautioned the board that under state law, delay without the approval of the applicant (DSST) would void the application. Application supporters said APS needed to take advantage of the educational opportunity offered by DSST and deal with administrative and financial issues separately.
The 25th Ave. campus comprises nine acres. Of that amount, 1.7 acres are privately owned at this time (the South Stapleton Office Warehouse Park building). Last year, APS commenced condemnation proceedings to acquire the site, which is located between Galena and Geneva streets. Eyre said the property owners are cooperating and a legal hearing is expected next April to complete that acquisition.