2017 school year brings change in Aurora

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Aurora is one of the most ethnically diverse cities in the country. And that fact is reflected in the area’s two large school districts.

Both the Aurora Public Schools and Cherry Creek School districts stretch over miles and host students from a wide range of economic, ethnic and cultural backgrounds. Both districts operate buildings across the city’s landscape, from the newer facilities on Aurora’s eastern stretches to the city’s first elementary, middle and high schools in the north. And as the population has boomed in the past decade plus, the face of both districts has changed — new buildings, cutting-edge curriculums and new approaches to curriculum have taken hold at APS and Cherry Creek.

Until recently both school districts have seen its populations increase yearly and have worked to deal with the needs that come with a rising number of students. But as the influx of new students has abated, both districts have had to deal with difficult budget issues.

Aurora Public Schools faced about a $31 million budget shortfall in 2017-2018 due to its first decrease in student enrollment. The school had seen student population increase by 2.5-percent on average over the past 10 years and budgeted accordingly. Yet with the unexpected decrease in student population, which means less funding from the state, Aurora Public Schools had to work to tighten its belt while keeping cuts from hitting the classroom in the upcoming school year.

In 2016 both Aurora Public Schools and Cherry Creek School District had bond measures approved by voters to help address infrastructure needs. Aurora Public Schools’ $300 million bond issue is being used in 2017 to help expand capacity at Vista PEAK Preparatory and Rangeview High School, start construction of a new building at Mrachek Middle School, make improvements to Aurora Central High School and Side Creek Elementary School and help upgrade both security and data protection across multiple campuses.

The $250 million bond issue Cherry Creek School District’s voters approved in 2016 will finance its 2021 Plan which includes construction of a new elementary and middle school, a career and innovation academy along with security and technology upgrades. Voters at the sametime also approved $23.9 million mill levy override to help meet the school’s projected budget shortfalls.

For students at Cherry Creek, this school year will mean needing to adjust their alarms in the morning. The CCSD board approved new start times for its schools. Elementary school students this year will start at 8 a.m. and finish at 2:45 p.m. Start times for middle schools will be moved to 8:50 a.m. across the board. High school students in CCSD will see the biggest time change, going from the current 7:10 a.m. start time to a new start time of 8:20 a.m.

At APS, the regular school calendar is set to kick off for grades 6 through 12 on Aug. 8, with students in grades 1 through 5 reporting to class two days later on Aug. 10. Preschool and kindergarten students come to class Aug. 15.

For a full calendar, log on towww.aurorak12.org.

Aurora Public Schools comprises 64 schools. That breaks down to four preschools, 26 elementary schools, six P-8 / K-8 schools, six middle schools, one grades 6-12 academy, five comprehensive high schools, one online high school, three pilot schools, one vocational/technical college, one gifted and talented K-8 school, nine charter schools and one home school support program.

Last year, the enrollment in the district was more than 39,460 students.

The breakdown of the district’s demographics is as follows: 0.6 percent Native American, 5.1 percent Asian, 18.5 percent black, 54.9 percent Hispanic, 15.6 percent white, 0.7 percent Native Hawaiian/Pacific Islander and 4.6 percent two or more races. Sixty-eight percent of APS students qualify for free or reduced lunch.

Thirty-six percent of APS students speak English as a second language, 82 percent of whom are native Spanish speakers.

The Cherry Creek district, which includes facilities outside of Aurora, has 61 schools, including 42 K-5 elementary schools, 10 middle schools serving grades six to eight, seven high schools, one magnet school and one charter school.

Last school year, Cherry Creek served 54,695 students across the 108 square miles of the district, an area that includes portions of Aurora, Cherry Hills Village, Centennial, Foxfield, Glendale, Greenwood Village, Englewood and Denver.

The breakdown of the district’s demographics is as follows: 0.6 percent American Indian/Alaska Native, 8.5 percent Asian, 0.2 percent Native Hawaiian/Pacific Islander, 11.3 percent black, 18.9 percent Hispanic, 54.3 percent white and 6.2 percent two or more races. Twenty-nine percent of the district’s students qualify for free or reduced lunch.