Parents continue objections to APS ‘Blueprint’ to close, realign schools

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Sable Elementary 5th grader Catherine Rodriguez listens to public comment at the Dec. 14 APS board of education meeting. Photo by Carina Julig/Sentinel Colorado

AURORA | A Wednesday night Aurora Public Schools virtual forum focusing on imminent school closures apparently did little to assuage frustration many families have voiced regarding the district’s Blueprint APS.

The plan is the district’s multi-year strategy for managing school buildings in response to changing enrollment trends. As part of the plan, some schools with low enrollment will be closed and seven campuses will be turned into specialized magnet schools that students located anywhere in the district can apply to.

The plan divides the district into seven geographic regions, and in December, the district announced its recommendations for Region 1. The recommendations came as a surprise to many because they included the proposed closure of Sable Elementary School, which was not on an initial list of buildings being considered. Since then, Sable parents and teachers have spoken out about their displeasure with the decision at school board meetings.

At the first of two information settings attempting to explain the plan, district officials gave more information about the Region 1 recommendations.

The magnet school for the region will be focused on “One Health,” an emerging approach that recognizes the health of people is closely connected to animals and the environment. A One Health Innovation Center will be built on the campus of North Middle School that will offer programming for K-12 students. It will also include space for a P-TECH program, a six-year program beginning in ninth grade that allows students to graduate with a high school diploma and an associate’s degree, along with experience and connections in the workforce.

Mark Seglem, APS’ chief of staff, said the planning committee recommended that because of enrollment numbers in the region the planning committee recommended for Paris, Montview and Crawford elementaries to be consolidated into two preschool to eighth-grade schools, with Paris being closed. It also recommended Sable, Park Lane and Altura elementary schools be consolidated into two elementary schools, with Sable being closed.

It initially recommended that North Middle School be shut down as a middle school and turned into the “One Health” magnet school, but that would not leave enough middle school spots in the region, so the plan was changed to keep North operational as a middle school and add onto the campus.

Seglem said the committee recommends that the Paris and Sable school buildings be repurposed to provide space for wraparound services, such as academic supports or physical and mental health clinics. A number of factors went into determining which building would be closed, he said, including what would be least disruptive for the district as a whole and the physical condition of the school buildings.

For Sable, reasons cited include that the building is aging and has high deferred maintenance needs, its geographic location gives it more opportunities to be repurposed and that it is located on a busy road, which has presented challenges for the school in the past.

If the recommendations are approved, current Sable and Paris students will be transferred to a new school starting in the 2023-2024 school year. The re-boundary process will not take place until later, Seglem said, but tentatively Sable students will go to Altura or Park Lane, and Paris students will go to Montview and Crawford.

The recommendations are scheduled to be presented to the board of education at its Feb. 15  meeting. A vote may not take place until the March meeting, depending on whether the board determines it needs more information.

After the presentation, the meeting opened up to questions from the community, which came mostly from parents of Sable students frustrated with the decision. Parents repeatedly said their impression was that objections were not being heard, and they did not think there was enough transparency in the process.

They also questioned whether anyone was paying attention to the meeting. Superintendent Rico Munn was absent due to a family emergency. Several board members, however, were in attendance.

“We understand that there’s a lot of passion and that this is difficult,” said APS’ chief communications officer Patti Moon. “This is part of the process, and we are here to listen.”

The district is scheduled to hold a second forum, this time in person, 5:30 p.m. Feb. 8 in the auditorium of North Middle School. It may be moved online depending on the pandemic health situation at the time.

More information about Blueprint APS is available at aurorak12.org/about-aps/blueprint-aps.

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30 year Resident
30 year Resident
3 months ago

I have to be honest, the previous board was very good at questioning and getting at least some information. This current board feels weak and are just following what the superintendent says.

Dean
3 months ago

I agree with you, I’ve been around for a while myself. How do we know the information we are given is truly accurate?
It’s to a point, there seems to be some other agenda that the ones in power are quickly trying to move into place.