Denver Public Schools is advancing its plan to close schools in anticipation of the district’s continued drop in enrollment in K-12 schools in the coming years, Superintendent Alex Marrero said at a school board meeting on Thursday.
The district will form a committee of families and other community members to determine what criteria should be used to determine whether the school will close or merge. Applications for those interested in joining the committee will be available online from Friday, he said.
According to Marrero’s presentation, DPS plans to announce which schools will close by the end of next year, with the closure going into effect during the 2024-25 school year.
But perhaps some schools will close earlier because they are already struggling, he said.
“Some of them are on life support now,” Marrero said.
Public school enrollment has fallen statewide during the pandemic, with the state Department of Education reporting Wednesday that there were 1,174 fewer K-12 students enrolled last fall than the previous year. The state saw a larger decline in enrollment in the 2020-21 school year with over 20,000 students leaving.
In DPS, the state’s largest school district, enrollment in preschool through grade 12 dropped by 172 students to 88,889 students in October, according to the Department of Education.
During the pandemic, more children are being homeschooled, and some families have moved out of state during the pandemic. Education officials say the decline in births is also linked to fewer students.
Marrero, in an interview before the meeting, also blamed gentrification and the high cost of living in Denver for the decline in enrollment, which he says is affecting families and DPS employees’ ability to stay in the city.
“Many of the families we have traditionally served as a community can live longer here,” said Nicholas Martinez, executive director of Transform Education Now, who spoke during the public comment portion of the meeting.
When students leave, so does the money allocated to districts and schools. For example, losing 6,000 students would result in a loss of $78 million, Marrero said.