How Denver Public Schools wants to drive a conversation about creating more integrated schools

The school board on Thursday approved a “Resolution for Strengthening Neighborhoods.”

East High school and a crane. (Kevin J. Beaty/Denverite)

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East High school and a crane. (Kevin J. Beaty/Denverite) development; construction; city park; denver; denverite; colorado; winter; kevinjbeaty;
East High school and a crane. (Kevin J. Beaty/Denverite)

By Eric GorskiChalkbeat 

Denver Public Schools is pledging to start a conversation about gentrification and spiraling housing costs in the city, hoping to use the results to create more integrated schools.

The school board on Thursday approved a “Resolution for Strengthening Neighborhoods.” It calls for forming a citywide committee to study those demographic shifts, which are driving a major reduction in the number of school-age children in many neighborhoods.

“It’s important that DPS address this issue, or begin to tackle this issue, because of the impact on our students, our students’ families, and our workforce,” said school board member Lisa Flores, who represents gentrifying areas of northwest, north and west Denver.

The board said it would use the results to recommend policies on school boundaries, choice, enrollment and academic programs “to drive greater socio-economic integration in our schools.”

Denver schools have a troubled history with segregation. More than 20 years ago, it took court-ordered busing to integrate schools that separated white and black students. Now, the pattern is playing out with Latinos and whites, in large part because the city itself is segregated.

Enrollment growth in Denver is slowing even as the city’s population is surging. Housing prices are driving low-income families out of Denver, new construction is catering to empty-nesters and millennials without children, and birth rates have declined since the Great Recession.

The details of who would serve on the committee, how it will be formed and when it will meet still are being worked out, Flores said. Likely partners include city leaders, the Denver Housing Authority and the Regional Transportation District.

The cost of housing and transportation are among the challenges DPS faces as it seeks to make high-quality schools available to families across Denver.

Chalkbeat is a nonprofit news site covering educational change in public schools.