There was a time in America when the population was vastly expanding. Known as the baby boomers era, this ran concurrently with the increase in prominence of public schools, as towns built more and more school buildings to keep up with demands. But today, fewer Americans are having children. Likewise, the last few years have led to a mass exodus of families from public education, in favor of homeschooling or private alternatives. All this has led to more school closures across the nation. Denver schools are the most recent city to consider these consolidations, as a committee is now recommending they do so.
An Advisory Committee released an extensive report that was presented to Denver school board members yesterday. Focusing on enrollment and possible school closures via consolidation, the committee recommended that the major city should consider closing some schools. They cited their reason for coming to this decision because of a lack of student enrollment in many of the city’s schools. However, as Chalkbeat reports, the committee failed to give any recommendations on which schools should be closed, leaving that up to the district instead.
Altogether, public schools across the United States have seen a total of 1.2 million students leave since 2020, according to a national survey. Denver schools, like many other major cities, have seen the brunt of those losses. Some of the committee’s findings showed that there are 27 elementary and middle schools with fewer than 274 students this year. Because of this, the group suggests that those with fewer than 215 total students next year, or those expected to lose 8% to 10% over the next few years, should consider consolidating.
School board members showed hesitancy last night to do so, citing racial demographics found in the report. It stated that of these elementary and middle schools with such few enrollments, many of them predominantly served students of color and likewise students from low-income households. Tay Anderson, the board’s Vice President, is opposed to closing Denver schools serving these minorities. His reason for this was that he said these schools have been producing academic gains in the past few years. He feels that relocating these children to another district could hinder or halt their progress.
But on the other hand, consolidating Denver schools could lead to increased budgets, which could in turn aid in boosting student success. Colorado public schools are funded based on how many students they have enrolled. This means that schools with less enrolled students are likely struggling to secure funds which can be detrimental to how well-balanced the educational experience for children is. In these underfunded schools, children often go without electives or essential services. Similarly, teachers in these schools are often tasked to cover multiple classes, meaning they might not be giving students the needed attention they deserve.
The good news for families is that it is unlikely that any Denver schools will be closed within the next few months, and children will be able to attend the same school they currently plan on going to next fall. Superintendent Alex Marrero reiterated this, stating that no schools are currently being considered for closure. Furthermore, the board noted that the earliest time frame for any Denver school closure would not be until the end of the 2023-24 school year.