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Letter from DPS to Stapleton families

Monday, December 10, 2012 Leave a Comment

Office of Planning & Analysis
900 Grant St, Room 402 Denver, Colo 80203
Office of Choice & Enrollment Services
900 Grant St, Room 402 Denver, Colo 80203 (720)423-3493
December 7, 2012

Dear Stapleton families,
We wanted to take this opportunity to provide you with some key updates on several topics and changes in the region (for Westerly Creek families: this is the info we were planning to communicate in meeting originally scheduled for November 28th).

The changes outlined below are recommended to ensure all families have access to high-quality schools in Northeast Denver and that we keep pace with rapid growth in Stapleton. It is important to us that your family is as informed as possible as we head into the SchoolChoice process this year.

Opening of next elementary school in Stapleton in 2013-14
DPS is planning to construct a new elementary facility in the Bluff Lake neighborhood to open for the 2014-15 school year to meet continuing demand for elementary school seats in Stapleton. Although this building will not be opened until 2014, DPS will conduct a “soft opening” of this school in the 2013-14 school year, offering kindergarten and some first grade classes in a leased facility in a location that has yet-to-be-determined. Many of you may know that the now highly successful Swigert International School launched in much the same manner, with a “seed school” opening for 1 year in a temporary location while the details of location and program design were determined for the school’s long-term future.

This fall, DPS convened a group of community members to advise the district on the educational programming for the new Bluff Lake facility. One of the options discussed was Highline Academy (a charter school that has been approved to open a second campus). While there was strong support for this program, the group of community members expressed a preference to collaborate further with the district to develop the program from the ground-up. As such, DPS is working to hire a highly-qualified principal as soon as possible so he/she may begin work quickly on program design.

If you are interested in enrolling your soon-to-be-kindergarten student in the new school in Bluff Lake, please select “Eastbridge” (4th Stapleton Elementary)” on the 2013-14 SchoolChoice form. DPS will provide information on the temporary location for the classes for the 2013-14 school year as soon as it is determined.

Recommendation to phase-out Smiley Middle School (located in Park Hill)
Because we believe that every Smiley student deserves a high-quality education, DPS leadership has recommended to the Board of Education that Smiley be phased out over a two-year period. This means that, if the proposal is approved, Smiley Middle School will not enroll 6th-graders in the 2013-14 school year. Smiley will continue to serve 7th- and 8th-graders in the 2013-14 school year. No current Smiley student will be displaced by this phase-out. This is only a proposal at this point. The Board of Education will hear public comment on the proposal at its Dec. 17 meeting at 6:30 p.m. at 900 Grant St. The
Board is expected to vote on the recommendation at its Dec. 20 meeting.

If the Board of Education approves the phase-out recommendation, all students who will be 6th-graders in the 2013-14 school year and who live within the Smiley attendance area will be guaranteed enrollment at one of five nearby, high- quality schools. Those schools are Bill Roberts, DSST: Stapleton, DSST: Cole, McAuliffe International School, and Morey Middle School. Transportation will be provided to ensure students have access to these programs. Additionally, a SchoolChoice Liaison will be provided to help your family understand these programs and complete the enrollment process. Additional details related to the SchoolChoice process will be shared with families of incoming 6th-graders later this month.
For schools with Stapleton priorities (Bill Roberts, McAuliffe and DSST: Stapleton), there will be no impact on the ability of Stapleton residents to access their programs. Because of the number of seats available at each school, there is capacity for Smiley boundary residents to attend one of the 5 schools being offered to them. It is important to note that Stapleton residents are guaranteed a spot in either McAuliffe or Bill Roberts, but may not necessarily be assigned to their first choice. Smiley boundary 6th graders in 2013-14 will be guaranteed a spot in one of their 5 schools, but may not necessarily be assigned to their first choice. Any student is welcome to choose any school in the district, but please recognize that students and families may not always receive their first choice.

There will be a community process beginning in January to determine what educational program will be offered at the Smiley facility beginning in the 2014-15 school year.

The Board will hear public comment on the Smiley phase out recommendation on December 17, 2012. 

To sign up to speak during public comment, please call the Board Office at 720-423-3210.

Update on programs in the Swigert McAuliffe International School (SMIS) facility
Given growth in Stapleton, Swigert and McAuliffe will not be able to fit in their current facility in the 2014-15 school year, without very serious compromises for the educational programs at each of the schools. With some minor facility modifications, both programs will be able to remain in the building through the 2013-14 school year. At this point, it is almost certain that McAuliffe Middle School will need to be moved to a new location beginning in 2014-15. If/when McAuliffe moves out, it will be necessary to start a smaller middle school program in the facility that can coexist with Swigert Elementary indefinitely.

Two viable options (though there are potentially others) are for McAuliffe to move to the Smiley facility, or move to one of the facilities slated to be built in North Stapleton. It is the vision of the McAuliffe leadership to move to Smiley (as expressed at their parent forum on November 29th). However, it is important to know that the community process this spring will help determine the offering that will open in Smiley in 2014-15.

Update on other facilities in Stapleton
Because of the recent passage of the bond, DPS is moving forward on the construction of a middle school/ high school campus at the southeast corner of Central Park Boulevard and 56th Avenue, which will be ready in 2015. Also planned is an E-8 facility in the Conservatory Green neighborhood, which is likely to be ready in the Fall of 2014. This facility, along with the facility at Bluff Lake, is expected to ultimately be funded through Tax Increment Financing (TIF), although it is likely that DPS will need to provide the upfront funding to construct both facilities as locally-generated TIF revenues are currently not sufficient to fund the school construction (this is the mechanism used to fund Swigert-McAuliffe, with TIF revenues used to reimburse DPS for construction costs over a period of years). Specific programming at either location has not yet been determined.

We appreciate your interest in all the changes within your community related to school options. Please don’t hesitate to contact the Office of Choice and Enrollment Services at (720)423-3493 if you have any questions or concerns.

Will Lee-Ashley, Director of Planning & Analysis
Shannon Fitzgerald, Director of Choice and Enrollment Services