Board of Education Update – December 7, 2017 Special Meeting and Focus on Achievement

New Board Selects Officers

At tonight’s meeting with newly elected Board of Education members, the board selected new officers:

  • President Anne Rowe was re-elected unanimously.
  • Vice President Barbara O’Brien was re-elected unanimously.
  • Secretary Carrie Olson was unanimously elected and follows Board Member Happy Haynes in the role.
  • Treasurer Lisa Flores was unanimously elected and follows former Board Member Mike Johnson in the role.

Ramona Lewis, board liaison, was re-appointed assistant secretary and Mark Ferrandino, the district’s chief finance officer, was re-appointed assistant treasurer to the Board of Education.

You can get to know more about the new board members here.

Strategic Regional Analysis Anticipates First Decline in School-Aged Children Since 2004

Tonight, the district’s Planning and Analysis team presented the 2017 Strategic Regional Analysis (SRA) — a key planning document that supports the Denver Plan 2020 goal of achieving Great Schools in Every Neighborhood. This goal calls for having at least 80% of students attending schools that are rated green or blue on the  School Performance Framework (SPF) in every region of the district.

Among key findings this year, the SRA anticipates the pace of growth is slowing in the district, and — for the first time since 2004 — the district anticipates a decline in school-aged children beginning next school year. DPS enrollment growth had been as much as 4.1% in 2009, but was down to just 0.4% this school year. The SRA’s five-year forecast predicts a decline in the number of school-aged children of 7% districtwide, with decreases of as much as 14% in Central Denver and 16% in Southwest Denver, while the Southeast will remain flat and Near Northeast will continue to grow by as much as 5%.

See the board SRA presentation and the detailed analysis.

Increasing housing prices and decreasing birth rates are both primary causes for a drop in the number of school-aged children, in addition to difficulty in further reducing already historically-low dropout rates. For example, housing changes and the decline in birth rates in areas like Central and Northwest Denver means that fewer children will enroll at every grade level, creating significant enrollment challenges for schools in those regions.

The planning team explained that University Prep-Steele elementary school is an example of where even a school with a blue SPF rating was unable to fill all of its seats because of the decline in school-aged children in the area.

“As I am thinking about the enrollment projections in my own elementary school in Southwest Denver, I’m thinking of how much of it is due to displacement,” said Board Member Angela Cobian. “I’m thinking about helping the schools manage but also, in the long-term, with the City [of Denver], what can we do to mitigate the number of people displaced?”

This year, DPS collaborated in its demographic work with the Denver Regional Council of Governments (DRCOG) and Shift Research Lab, part of the Piton Foundation, to conduct the independent five-year student enrollment forecast.

“One of the best things about doing this five-year view is to help our schools plan as best as possible for what the foreseeable future looks like, and what that will mean for their schools and students,” said Brian Eschbacher, executive director of Planning and Choice.

Proposed Boundary and Zone Changes

Following the presentation of the district’s SRA, the board reviewed in more detail how enrollment patterns affect our ability to offer all students access to great schools. To ensure equitable access to all our students, the district is proposing two boundary and zone changes.

In Far Northeast Denver, more than 5,000 new housing units in planning and development in the area have already created capacity challenges at Lena Archuleta Elementary School. The school’s Early Childhood Education (ECE) and kindergarten programs have already had to be relocated to Escalante-Biggs because of a lack of space. The district considered creating new school boundaries, but because they would divide existing neighborhoods and would likely need to continue to change in the future, the district is instead recommending two new enrollment zones to serve the Gateway and Green Valley Ranch North areas.

In Greater Five Points, challenges with the boundaries for a number of the neighborhood’s elementary schools have resulted in under-enrollment and enrollment inequities for students who start the school year late and other hard-to-serve students. There are currently more than 800 elementary school seats available in the area, even after this year’s closure of Gilpin Elementary School. The district considered creating new boundaries in the neighborhood, but they would divide existing neighborhoods and would arbitrarily result in students attending schools with very specific models due to location. Instead, the district is recommending creating a single enrollment zone to include Wyatt, Cole, Whittier and University Prep: Arapahoe elementary schools. Because of transportation issues due to construction in the area, Downtown Denver Expeditionary School would not be included in this zone for the 2018-19 school year but could be added in future years.

Read more about the proposed zone and boundary changes here. The board is expected to vote Dec. 21 on the recommendations.