APS now accepting proposals for repurposing Sable and Paris elementary schools

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Sable Elementary. Photo by PHILIP B. POSTON/Sentinel Colorado

AURORA | Aurora Public Schools is now accepting requests for proposals for how to repurpose the Sable and Paris elementary school buildings, which will close at the end of the current school year as part of Blueprint APS.

Paris and Sable, along with Sixth Avenue, are the three schools that have been closed or are scheduled to close without already being slated for another district use, such as conversion into a magnet school. Sixth Avenue will go through the repurposing process next year.

The request for proposals for Paris and Sable opened Dec. 5 and will be open through Feb. 10. Proposals can come from individuals, groups or corporations or APS employees, who will need to have their ideas approved by their appropriate supervisor and division chief before they are submitted.

RFP submissions can be proposals to either purchase or lease one of the buildings or to designate them for an alternate use by APS. The latter option is only available to current APS staff members, and does not include the buildings being converted into charter schools.

The district will be holding two open houses next week at Paris and Sable for people interested in submitting proposals to learn more about the buildings, according to a message posted on the district website. Those interested in attending must RSVP by emailing [email protected] by Friday, Dec. 9.

The Paris open house is scheduled for Monday, Dec. 12 from 5:30 – 6:30 p.m. and the Sable open house is scheduled for Thursday, Dec. 15 from 5:30 – 6:30 p.m. Both will take place at the respective schools.

The district held a series of community input meetings and information sessions this fall that it will use to determine which proposals are most in line with community values. The findings from the sessions are included in the RFP document.

The input sessions were hosted by Keystone Policy Center this fall. A memo submitted by the center said that meeting participants expressed a desire for community focused facilities but were also skeptical of the district and school board’s intentions.

In the meetings, the memo said that there were a range of ideas but “a consistent theme from the majority of attendees that any use of the facility should serve the community. In each meeting, more than one participant made the point that the subject schools have served as a connecting hub, a safe place and a gathering place for the families who call the neighborhood home.”

Specific ideas listed include using the buildings for a trade school, daycare center, food bank location, affordable housing, community center or ESL or tutoring center, among others. At one of the meetings, a current Paris Elementary student specifically asked the district to consider turning the school into a legacy center for the Boys and Girls Club, which would provide programming all year to students in kindergarten through high school.

The memo also said that many people who attended the meetings were skeptical that the district would listen to their ideas and were still hurt by the decision to close the schools, which many teachers and families had protested against. The decision to close Paris and Sable was particularly contentious because neither was on an initial list of schools being considered for closure as part of Blueprint APS. Community members said they felt blindsided by the announcement and criticized the district for a lack of communication.

“Several participants at each session expressed both their skepticism of the authenticity of the Input Sessions and their frustration with decisions made by District leaders and by the Board following previous engagement efforts,” the memo said. “Specifically, participants stated that they felt their ideas, concerns and requests had not been reflected in decisions made. These community members felt that the District did not listen to them in the past and questioned why they should engage in this process in a meaningful way.”

Once the RFP deadline has passed, the proposals will be reviewed by a district committee, and those evaluated to be viable will be presented to the public, according to information presented to the school board this fall. The committee will consider criteria including how financially and logistically feasible the proposal is, the partner’s demonstrated track record of success and whether the idea aligns with the district’s and community’s values.

Presentations to the public are slated for February through mid-May, and feedback will be used by the board in its final decisions. Depending on the type of repurposing, the final decision will be made by either the superintendent or be voted on by the school board. The board must vote on decisions involving school closures and school property being sold, according to district policy. The superintendent can unilaterally decide to repurpose schools or use school buildings for an alternative district use.

Who will have the authority of the superintendent this spring is currently undetermined, as Superintendent Rico Munn announced his decision to step down once his contract expires at the end of this school year and will be in a support role during spring semester. The school board is expected to name an interim superintendent, who Munn has suggested be current chief of staff Mark Seglem, shortly.

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