What do local families want to see in a new local middle school? That’s the question on the minds of three school leaders vying to open a new 500-600 seat middle school in the Greater Park Hill/Stapleton enrollment zone in Fall 2019.
Denver Green School, High Tech Elementary and Beacon Middle Schools submitted letters of intent in July. Applications are due at the end of October with a decision to be made by December 2018.
The new school will be located in north Stapleton at a site to be determined, although its temporary opening location will be at the new Park Street Campus where Inspire Elementary is now located, along 56th Ave. Its permanent location will likely be a shared campus, said Maya Lagana, Senior Director of Portfolio Management for DPS.
Local families were surprised that McAuliffe International School did not submit a letter of intent. Principal Kurt Dennis said his leadership team spent a lot of time considering the idea but ultimately, concerns about limited size, the probability of sharing a campus, and the early opening date dissuaded McAuliffe from applying.
On social media and via email conversations, Park Hill and Stapleton residents have expressed concerns about what the new school will be like.
Will it offer a comprehensive program, including languages, arts and sports? Or will it be a specialized, charter school, with an emphasis on a specific content or school culture? Can it be a diverse school and still accommodate the rapid growth occurring in Stapleton? Where will it be located?
Most importantly, they ask, will DPS listen to the community?
“Our process will be guided largely by a facility allocation process which centralizes student academic growth and achievement, alignment with district priority needs and community support and demand,” said DPS’s Lagana. “We will also be working with the community in the coming months to identify the priorities they have for a new middle school in the area, and those will be centralized in the process as well.”
From interviews with leaders of the three candidate schools, one thing became clear: each school leader is eager to connect with the local community to learn what people who live in the GPHS zone most want and need in a new middle school. “We want to work with the community and actively find what makes the most sense,” says Kartal Jaquette a Lead Partner with the Denver Green School.
All three candidate schools are innovation schools, meaning they are district-run but with more flexibility than traditional schools. School leaders confirmed that their teachers are licensed and paid at least union wages. All have “green” SPF ratings in 2017, indicating academic strength, and good reputations in the district.
All have 1:1 computer programs (one computer per child), but they emphasize that the computers merely enhance, not replace, traditional learning. Technology “is not their teacher,” said Amy Gile, Executive Principal of High Tech Elementary.
The three schools all intend to offer foreign languages and arts, likely as electives or enrichments, and all three will field DPS sports teams as well as club or elective sports opportunities.
So far, the schools have only submitted non-binding letters of intent, which offer a sketch of the proposed programs. The chart above summarizes the schools’ current proposals, but as Alex Magaña, Executive Director for the Beacon Schools points out, these are provisional: “It all depends on the demand of the school.”
For example, issues like ultimate size of the school or proposed demographics can be modified based on community input and demand. “The targets listed in the letters of intent are targets,” says Lagana, “but students who reside in the enrollment zone will always get first priority into this school and every other school.”
The applicant schools will be holding community meetings and will attend the Stapleton United Neighbors (SUN) meeting scheduled for October 16. DPS also intends to hold community meetings, which they will announce at the end of September. To get involved in the process, email Maya Lagana with DPS at Maya_Lagana@dpsk12.org.
1 According to Lagana of DPS, state law regarding charter schools mandates that DPS consider applicants who have not submitted letters of intent but later submit an application. Additional applications are not expected, however, and DPS believes that one of these three schools will be chosen.