Board of Education Update – December 17, 2018 Work Session

Bus Passes Approved for Additional High School Students

The Denver Board of Education approved a recommendation set forth by DPS Transportation Services to reduce the walk-distance for high school students from 3.5 miles to 2.5 miles, making approximately 1,700 additional students newly eligible to receive DPS-funded bus passes from the Regional Transportation District (RTD).

The expansion of the DPS high school RTD pass program was recommended by the RTD Pass Program Working Group, including DPS Transportation Services and the City and County of Denver, to create a 70% fare discount for youth ages 6-19 on all regular bus and train services. The recommendation also allows for passes to be purchased by partner organizations such as schools, not-for-profit organizations and municipalities for distribution to youth.

In May 2016, DPS made a pledge to work with community stakeholders, such as Together Colorado and the Donnell-Kay Foundation, in a two-year effort focused on increasing access to high quality schools and educational opportunities for high school students. In April 2018, the Denver Board of Education issued a proclamation to approve the RTD Pass Program Working Group’s recommendations to the RTD Board of Directors.

Utilizing $400,000 provided through the voter-approved 2016 mill levy override, DPS is able to make a total investment of $1.2 million into the DPS RTD Pass program for students. This expansion of the program will assist with maximizing opportunities for students to access public transportation, increase student attendance and mobility, and align existing policies that support overall student achievement.

The change will take effect in January 2019, and DPS Transportation Services will provide the additional passes to the RTD Pass Coordinators at schools with eligible students. Families of eligible students will receive information from DPS and their school with instructions on where to pick up their passes. High school students eligible to receive the DPS RTD Pass are those who attend and live 2.5 miles from their home/boundary school.

Board Member Carrie Olson suggested that DPS Transportation Services work with the district’s community navigators to help ensure newcomer and immigrant students who may not understand our transportation systems are able to use their bus passes.

Additional information is available at

Regional Analysis Forecasts Enrollment Declines in Most Areas

The board also received a presentation of the district’s annual Strategic Regional Analysis (SRA). The report details the current state of enrollment, capacity, SchoolChoice behavior, school performance by region and identifies gaps in each area that may require district intervention. It informs the Call for New Quality Schools and the Denver Plan 2020 goal of having at least 80% of students attending SPF blue or green schools in every region in the district.

While DPS enrollment has been growing for more than a decade, enrollment growth has slowed significantly since 2013. Between 2017 and 2018, K-12 growth was essentially flat. The growth in ECE-12 enrollment is attributable to an increase in ECE seats. Total DPS enrollment is projected to begin a steady decline in 2021. Enrollment forecasts in the SRA are based on a 5-year independent forecast created in partnership with the Denver Regional Council of Governments (DRCOG).

Enrollment trends in the district are projected to vary both by region and school level, although the general trend is toward slower growth and future decline. Net growth is still projected in some regions (DIA, Stapleton and Gateway) and at the high school level over the next five years. However, declines are projected in the remainder of the district and at the elementary and middle school levels.

The forecast indicates that ECE-5 enrollment will decrease by approximately 2,700 students by 2023. Middle school enrollment will continue to grow through 2020, and will begin to decline in 2021. High school enrollment will continue to grow through 2023.

K-5 enrollment is forecast to decrease by 7% districtwide. The Central and Southwest regions will have the largest K-5 enrollment declines at 12% and 14% respectively. The Stapleton, DIA, and Gateway neighborhoods will be responsible for most of the total enrollment growth in the next five years and additional capacity in these areas will likely be needed.

At the district level, SchoolChoice participation and match rates were flat between 2017 and 2018 with the shift to a fully online application system, though there were some fluctuations among transition grades.

Board Member Happy Haynes inquired about “whether there is a correlation between [school] performance, choice out and match rates in any of our regions.” SchoolChoice and Planning Executive Director James Carpenter said there is a correlation, but there are a lot of competing factors that families weigh when considering which school to choose. “More of our seats in our green and blue [SPF-rated] schools are filled, or filled at a higher rate. However, there are exceptions to that,” he said. “There are places where we see pressure on capacity that is not related to the SPF rating: proximity is one of those factors, as are program type, familiarity with the school, familiarity and sibling enrollment, as well.”

Board Member Angela Cobian said she would really like to see the district work to develop a summary of the SRA to share with legislators so they better understand some of the budgetary impacts declining enrollment will continue to have on our schools. She said she is also interested in learning “where kids are leaving their schools and the hot spots of schools that are receiving them, because it has a significant budgetary impact for those schools.” She added that she is curious to learn more about pathway schools’ enrollment since they do not participate in the SchoolChoice process.

You can read the full SRA presentation here.

Greater Park Hill Stapleton Middle School Facility Placement Committee Recommends Denver Green School-Northfield 

The Denver Board of Education heard recommendations as part of the 2018 Supplemental Call for New Quality Schools Community Matching Process. DPS convened a placement committee of community members and staff to review the three schools applying to open a new middle school at the Park Street Campus in North Stapleton:

  • Denver Green School-Northfield
  • High Tech K-8 and
  • Beacon Network.

The committee unanimously recommended Denver Green School-Northfield for placement beginning in fall 2019. The committee noted the school’s strong middle school academic track record, experienced leaders, success in closing opportunity gaps for students and broad community outreach efforts in its recommendation.

The committee used a rubric grounded in the Facility Allocation Policy, which establishes expectations for how the district evaluates facility requests based on four criteria to select the best available option.

Board Member Lisa Flores thanked the staff and community members who participated in the process, saying she appreciated their “thoughtfulness and being very methodical in how you approached a really important decision. It shows. This feels very different than past processes and much more balanced. The change is palpable.”

Interim Superintendent Ron Cabrera echoed the sentiment, saying, “I commend the staff and the community. These are important decisions and the process is really rigorous. I have been with several districts and have never seen something quite like this come together, so thank you so much.”

The full recommendation presentation is available here.