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Parents protest Denver Public Schools' process to address declining enrollment

Parents share concerns over Denver Public Schools' process to address low enrollment
Posted at 10:41 PM, Apr 12, 2022
and last updated 2022-04-13 01:02:32-04

DENVER — Change is on the table for some Denver Public Schools due to declining enrollment. While the district is still deciding how to address the issue, some parents say their voices aren't being heard.

On Tuesday evening, members of the coalition group Mamás de DPS Peliando por las Escuelas Públicas, or DPS Moms Fighting for Public Schools, gathered outside of Fairview Elementary School to protest the district's handling of declining enrollment.

DPS says it's taking a community-led approach to the matter, but the parents who gathered tell Denver7 they feel otherwise.

"How do they carry out that plan? Through confusing messages, a lack of transparency," said a former DPS teacher.

Come 2024, the district could potentially close or consolidate schools that are struggling with low enrollment.

In January, the district convened a declining enrollment advisory committee made up of at least 30 members, including teachers, parents and district staff. The committee will then recommend certain criteria to Superintendent Alex Marrero for closing or consolidating schools.

Some have concerns about how potential closures could impact the district's Black and Latino communities, while others feel the district's Spanish-speaking families have been shut out of the process.

"When you close down a school, you leave a wound in a community," said Radhika Nath, a DPS parent. "You a leave wound for businesses, for children, for families who are all now scrambling to find alternative sources of education."

"Siento que no nos valoren precisamente porque somos una comunidad pequeña, y no hablamos el idioma," said another parent.

Loosely translated, the mother said those who speak Spanish don't feel valued because they are a small community.

Denver Public Schools pushed back against the claims. In a lengthy statement, the district said they have strong representation from the neighborhoods most impacted by declining enrollment.

Declines in the number of school-aged children isn't just a Denver issue, according to experts.

"It's really simple, we've seen a slow down in births," said Elizabeth Garner, demographer for the state. "Starting back in 2007, that was our peak birth year, we've seen a slowing in births ever since. So with fewer kiddos, that means lower school enrollment."

That lower school enrollment has left DPS little choice but to act. Parents maintain they wish they were more involved in the process.

The district says it considers committee meetings to be "works sessions." Therefore, the meetings aren't open to public.

DPS guided Denver7 to this community feedback form, saying the committee will take into consideration the responses it receives.