AURORA | This school year, Aurora Public Schools will focus on repurposing buildings, regional specializations and the re-boundary process as the next steps of Blueprint APS, according to a Friday news release from the district.
Blueprint APS is the district’s long-range facilities plan, which has been in development for several years after the former plan expired in 2017. The new plan is attempting to adapt to declining enrollment in the district, in particular on the west side of the city, along with growth along the E-470 corridor.
Last school year the plan was met with criticism from many parents and teachers due to the district’s recommendations to close Paris and Sable elementary schools. After several months of deliberation the school board ultimately voted to accept the recommendation at its May board meeting, slating the two schools for closure at the end of the 2022-2023 school year.
Opponents of the closures have said that they destabilize student’s education, and will be particularly challenging for Sable and Paris’ student bodies, which have high populations of recent immigrants and low income families. The district has said that school closures are necessary to manage the district’s budget as efficiently as possible, and that under-enrollment creates inequities between students in different district schools.
Many other districts across the nation and in the Denver metro area are also closing schools due to declining enrollment. On Thursday, the JeffCo school district announced recommendations to close 16 elementary schools at the end of this school year because of low enrollment.
At APS, the district opened up its first two Blueprint magnet schools this school year, which are focused on visual and performing arts and entrepreneurship. The district eventually plans to have seven magnet schools, each with its own specialization.
“We are excited for the many new opportunities that are and will be available for students,” Superintendent Rico Munn said in a message posted to the district’s website. “We must also acknowledge the difficult and sensitive conversations that we have had about closing and repurposing schools. We know this work is challenging, but this is the critical planning that we must do together as a community in order to best serve our students into the future.”
This school year, Munn said APS will focus on:
-School building repurposing: the district will be exploring how to repurpose the buildings of schools that have been closed. This will involve community information sessions, and an update will be provided to the board at its Oct. 25 meeting.
-Regional specialization work: the district will “deepen our work to provide students at schools throughout the district with more real-world learning experiences,” the message said.
-Boundary processes: the district will conduct a re-boundary process to determine where students who are currently at Sixth Avenue, Paris and Sable elementaries will go when their schools are closed.
The message said that most Sable students are anticipated to attend either Park Lane or Altura elementary schools, most Paris students Crawford or Montview elementary schools and that most Sixth Avenue students will likely attend the new P-8 school that will be opening at the former site of Lyn Knoll Elementary.
The message said that it will continue to monitor student enrollment and it is possible that more schools will be recommended for closure in the upcoming 2023-2024 school year. The district’s enrollment has declined over the past five years, losing a total of about 3,600 students, according to data from the spring.
“We ask for your continued partnership and voice in this critical work as we plan for the future,” Munn said. “Change is always difficult and we want to provide as much communication and support throughout these transitions as possible.”