After five months of community involvement with DPS about middle-school capacity, programs and boundaries, the Stapleton community was taken by surprise with DPS’ last-minute selection of an elementary school for Northfield. The sudden decision raised questions in the community about why they were left almost entirely out of the process.
“Why weren’t we allowed more time to provide input as to whether or not this was the right type of school for our community? Why weren’t there more options? This lack of communication between DPS and Stapleton is frustrating and disappointing,” says Jennifer Knowles, parent of a two-year-old. But, she adds, “Having said that, now that the school has been approved, I plan on getting involved in the school planning committee to ensure that our children’s educational needs are met.”
School board member Happy Haynes explains that new school proposals are due in April, and DPS then goes through an intensive effort to determine the best program for each new school. As it turned out, DPS staff thought the two strongest programs were ones that both applied for a Green Valley Ranch school. With the short, intensive time frame for assessing proposals, it was early June when they concluded they should recommend one of them, High Tech Elementary, for Stapleton. As a district-run neighborhood school (rather than a charter), High Tech was the better fit, given the Stapleton community’s desire to work in an advisory role with the principal in planning a new school.
“All of us, and I include myself, could have been a little bit more diligent to get the word out to the community,” says Haynes. She added that initial calls for a committee to plan the new school had a limited response, and, in hindsight, they should have pushed harder to get that committee going. Haynes explained that she and other board members agreed it would have been best to have more community involvement, but they voted yes because experience has shown that schools need at least a full year of planning. Delaying the vote would have handicapped the school by shortening the start-up time…and DPS would still have recommended High Tech as the strongest applicant.
The sudden decision left most of the community without knowledge of the new program.
For more information, visit www.hightechelementary.dpsk12.org.
To learn more about the five shared-boundary schools in Stapleton and Park Hill refer to the Front Porch Guide to Near NE Denver Middle Schools.