On December 15, the Denver Board of Education voted on two resolutions that will have significant impact on the future of Northfield High School and the Paul Sandoval Campus, located in north Stapleton.
The Board unanimously approved a controversial proposal by DPS to use bond money to build a 500-seat school for DSST: Conservatory Green High School on the Sandoval Campus. Many Stapleton and Northeast area families had expressed significant concerns about this proposal at a community meeting December 5. They expressed fear that using resources to add a second high school while Northfield is still getting established would prevent it from from reaching its full, planned potential of being a large, comprehensive, regional IB high school. These stakeholders also criticized DPS for a lack of transparency, accusing the district of misleading them to believe that the next phase of build-out at the campus would be for Northfield.
The second resolution, also unanimously passed by the board, was spearheaded by new District 4 board member, Rachele Espiritu, who represents the area where the Sandoval campus is located. Over the last two weeks, she worked closely with Northfield’s leadership team, including Principal Bringedahl, Assistant Principal Houston, and the school’s Collaborative School Committee. Board members Johnson, O’Brien, and Flores took part in the process at various points.
This resolution in support of Northfield and its International Baccalaureate program offers 16 very specific items that spell out how the District will support the nascent high school. These include enrollment and budgeting issues; specific commitments of financial and facilities support for IB programming; the construction of classrooms, offices, a library, a parking lot and a full kitchen; and the provision by DPS of communication and marketing resources. Many of the resolutions contain timelines, giving a clear and accountable framework for implementation. The resolution also states DSST Conservatory Green Middle School shall continue to operate at the Conservatory Green Campus.
“There have been very, very few resolutions put for the before the Board specific to a school,” said Espiritu. “It is unique…I heard the frustrations from the community in the process and the failure of the district to be timely and to be transparent, so I thought it would be very important for us as a board to show that commitment to the high school.” Espiritu sees the resolution as a “first step” in an ongoing process of ensuring that Northfield reaches its promised potential of and IB-for-all school that serves a diverse community. She will continue to be engaged with school leaders, community members, and DPS to monitor implementation.
In an interview with the Front Porch the day after the board meeting, Superintendent Tom Boasberg unequivocally stated, “There has not been, there is not, and there will not be any cap on Northfield High School’s enrollment. They will continue to welcome every kid in the boundary plus 35% (far northeast) choice (students), and we will ensure that there is high-quality, permanent space on the Sandoval campus to meet that enrollment demand, however high that it grows,” adding that could even include relocating another school from the campus if enrollment of boundary students plus 35% from far northeast requires all 2,500 seats on the Sandoval campus.
CLARIFICATION (added 12/17/16): Boasberg’s exact quote about options for accommodating more students, as needed, was, “If there was a middle school on the campus, then move the middle school to a nearby campus….the second option would be to expand the footprint of the existing buildings on the Sandoval campus. Again I want to be very clear, if Northfield’s enrollment grows beyond 1500 kids, we will unconditionally build to provide additional capacity on the campus, even if that means the middle school is in a different location.”
Based on the board’s unanimous support of the resolution and Boasberg’s statements, it appears the community, through SchoolChoice, will determine how fast and how big NHS will grow.
Download the board resolution here.