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Board Rejects Plans For Opening 3 New Charter Schools In Denver Public Schools

(CBS4) - Despite students and parents pushing for the approval of three new charter schools in Denver Public Schools, the board voted to deny the proposals of all three charters on Thursday.

The decision came during an evening meeting, after many community members pleaded with the district to consider approving the applications of the schools. The charters in question were the STEM School Denver, which is a project-based school, the BLM 5280 Freedom School, which centers black students and curriculum, and the Radical Arts Academy of Denver, which would prioritize the arts. And these are charter schools that some feel are very much needed for DPS kids.

"Black, indigenous, and students of color in Denver deserve a school that affirms and uplifts their identity," said Branta Lockett, the executive director of the Freedom school.

RAAD was hoping to take a project-based approach to the arts with their school.

"What we're providing with Radical Arts Academy is a completely unique model that we definitely haven't seen in the district or really anywhere else," said Mario Yuzo Nieto, the chief executive arts director at RAAD. "What we're pioneering is arts-based learning."

DPS Superintendent Dr. Alex Marrero recommend the board deny the applications of the new charter schools. A concern he and board members have had in opening these schools has to do with low enrollment and the fact that the district is already struggling to get students at their schools.

But some believe this is another example of the district not listening to the needs of the community.

"We heard it from the DPS staff, that said that the number one driver of low enrollment across the district is actually gentrification," said Nicholas Martinez, with Transform Education Now.

A recent study conducted by Stanford University found that Denver's charters outperform many traditional schools especially when it comes to serving students of color, and for a district whose population is primarily Black and brown, Martinez said giving parents the option of these charters is critical.

"Charter schools have the flexibility to meet the needs of their students where they are, as soon as they're identified," he said.

Since the board voted not to approve the opening of the schools, those charters can appeal that decision with the Colorado Board of Education.

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