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New Data Shows Student Enrollment Trending Down Across Denver, Elementary Schools Especially Impacted

DENVER (CBS4) - It's no secret the city of Denver is changing, a reality seen every day across our neighborhoods and the people who call them home. A new report from Denver Public Schools shows the district is feeling those changes too and will be for some time.

The annual report was presented at Monday's board meeting and highlights several ongoing trends alongside the most recent U.S. Census data. While overall enrollment is trending down, the hardest hit were elementary schools as well as overall enrollment in schools in southwest Denver.

"When fewer children are living in the city and born into the city, that's just fewer students that are enrolling in the district," said Brian Eschbacher, an education consultant and DPS' former Executive Director of Planning and Enrollment.

According to Eschbacher and the report, the shrinking population is a result of rising housing prices and declining birthrates, two issues affecting the Latino population the most.

One bright spot is two areas stayed constant or even saw some growth: Far Northeast Denver and North Central Park.

"The district is likely to face some challenges in the road ahead on understanding how many schools it can continue to support as a result of losing several thousand students, particularly when it's happening to elementary schools and when it's happening on the west side of the city," said Eschbacher.

"These are not trends that are happening evenly across the city," he said.

"It's not a DPS problem. This is something schools across the country are facing," said Scott Pribble, Director of External Communications for DPS.

According to Pribble, the district is looking at two solutions for the potential budget shortfalls created by declining enrollment. The first is a recent reorganization of central office jobs.

The other possible solution is school consolidation, which school leaders have begun discussing. A new committee of employees and community members has also been created to create criteria for the district, he said.

"Consolidation, if we get to that point, will not be an immediate reaction. This is something that will be studied long and hard and a lot of things will be taken into account, including the impact that it has to that community," Pribble said.

"Even if a school is consolidated, the majority of those decisions won't be in place until the (23-24) school year," added Pribble.

Eschbacher said the talks will be emotional and decisions will be hard, but the result isn't always negative.

"We've seen some cities do these well where students end up in more vibrant, higher-performing schools than they had been previously, and we've seen some other districts struggle with this because it's a very emotional, community-based conversation that's challenging to navigate," said Eschbacher.

Editor's Note: Scott Pribble's final quotation in this article has been adjusted to reflect the correct years decisions about consolidation could be in place.

EMERGENCY COMPONENT - LOCAL

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