NOTE: Stapleton Community Meeting on Elementary Enrollment Policy Monday Dec. 9, 6pm at Swigert School. Send comments to: firstname.lastname@example.org or call 720-423-3210. DPS board public comment and vote Thursday, Dec. 19 at 900 Grant Street. Submit request to speak by 5pm the day before.
In the rest of DPS, and in most public school districts across the country, school attendance is established by boundaries. The location of a person’s home determines their assigned neighborhood school.
However, from the time Stapleton opened its second elementary school, a different kind of system was established—one that allows everyone in the community to select from all the schools. That system was chosen based on a community preference at that time. In return for having a variety of programmatic options, residents give up the certainty that comes with boundary schools.
Now, as the empty lots dotting the neighborhoods have filled with homes and new families, some who have moved close to schools with a dream of walking have been disappointed. With the priority for siblings and for ECE students, new families that live next to a school are discovering that they may end up at the furthest away school in Stapleton since the one across the street is already full.
Stapleton United Neighbors, in response to a request from DPS to determine the wishes of the community on boundaries versus choice in the future, came up with a recommendation to set aside 25% of seats in each school (after siblings, students in ECE and school staff’s children) for those who live in a priority zone for that school.
When DPS came back to the community with a recommendation that 50% be priority zone seats, with that number rising another 10% a year until it reached 100%, the community exploded. In five meetings on the same night in five different schools, the vast majority of speakers expressed anger, many saying they moved to Stapleton because they wanted the open choice system.
Another community meeting was set for six days later, this time not to have DPS propose a plan, but to have a quorum of DPS board members (Taylor, Seawell, Haynes, Rowe) hear feedback directly from the community. How many seats should be set aside for those who live in a proximity zone near a school? And should there be a separate priority for those who live north or south of I-70 based on proximity? Since the choice system increases transportation costs, DPS also proposed priority zones for transportation.
Although a few speakers favored giving a preference for proximity, the majority of speakers favored the open choice system. Comments included:
“No one has addressed how setting boundaries will help kids.”
“We’ve invested in homes based on the ability to choose.”
“We chose Stapleton for our education choices. Boundaries cause division.”
“DPS’ first core value is putting students first. How do proximity zones put students first?”
“Proximity zones would work fine if all the programs were the same. But our schools have dramatically different programming and we’ve all chosen based on our children’s needs.”
Board District 4 representative Landri Taylor, after the Nov. 19 meeting, said he and Happy Haynes told DPS staff they believe there doesn’t need to be a transportation discussion right now. “That’s a separate conversation than choice for the Stapleton community and they don’t need to make a transportation decision now that would be set in concrete for years to come. I’m going to vote to approve that transportation doesn’t change (for next year). It doesn’t really have to be part of the motion that’s presented to us. In December we’re going to vote on an enrollment choice policy to include Conservatory Green and Isabella Bird schools. Where I sit, I am going to vote in the affirmative for one Stapleton regardless of where your residence is” (giving everyone equal access to every school).
Taylor says he has asked staff for projections if proximity preferences are given. “It may not be a number that’s worth making a change at all if it’s only going to impact a dozen people. I think the community can make a good decision when they have the right data.”
DPS has already prepared a chart (posted at bottom of page) showing that if 25% of seats (after other priorities) had been set aside in the 2013-14 kindergarten class of 100 students, 12 students would have gotten in under that priority and 33 from the overall Stapleton boundary would have gotten in. A map of the proposed priority zones is also posted at bottom of page.
Projections for next year will be posted on the Front Porch website when available.
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