Reopening of Montbello High School means 'absolutely everything' to many in community
It was billed as the largest school turnaround effort in Denver Public Schools history. The vote to close Montbello High School more than a decade ago, was meant to usher in high performing schools for far northeast Denver.
But it left a large part of the city without a comprehensive high school.
Bryan Sanders, a Montbello alum, parent and an old neighbor of CBS4's Justin Adams, said, "For us as a community, we felt our school was taken from us." Sanders has watched and waited for this day. His son Sean will enter as a freshman at the newly-reimagined Montbello High School.
"I graduated as a Warrior. Now my son gets to graduate as a Warrior. To be able to have this opportunity for my son to be a freshman here with the incoming class is truly a blessing for us."
This is Montbello's first freshman class since the Denver Public School Board of Education voted in 2010 to close the school in an effort to improve academic options. The announcement was met with protests.
The class of 2011's Yesica Escalante loved her Montbello experience, but even as a teenager thought the school was left behind by the broader community.
"It was really hard," Escalante said. "We had about five principals throughout my four year high school experience, and that alone already made us feel like no one cared about our school." Escalante wants nothing more than to see her neighborhood high school succeed this time, and yet she said. "I'm really scared for the fact that they're opening it all together all four years instead of gradually, and I think that will not bring as much attention to each individual student at the end and get them college ready."
CBS News Colorado conducted an analysis of the graduation rate, graduate count, and graduate base totals for the old Montbello High School from 2005 – 2011, and for its replacement schools.
From 2006 – 2011, the old Montbello High School's graduation rates were all lower than DCIS at Montbello and Noel Community Arts School's graduation rates were from 2017 to 2021. From 2005 – 2011, the old Montbello High School's highest graduation rate was only 72.7% in 2005. By 2011, that dropped to 60.1%.
DCIS at Montbello's graduation rate has declined since 2017. It was 78.70% in 2017 and in 2021, it was only 70.40%.
Noel Community Arts School's grad rate stayed about the same, but rose slightly since 2017. In 2017, it was 69.90%, and in 2021, it was 73.30%.
Principal Neisa Lynch says after extensive surveying of what families want, she is confident Montbello will deliver on academics and individualized focus, adding, "We've been overwhelmed with the community wanting to come in and say 'How can we help? What can we do to help build our new school hub?'"
"Let's bring in 9th through 12th grade we can bring everybody together, build the culture, unify everyone," Lynch said.
Lynch expects 1,100 to 1,200 students.
The reconstruction of Montbello High School will come in two phases. The first one is to renovate the classrooms on the lower level of the school so that students can attend classes while the renovation is taking place. The second phase will be the construction of the new high school building which is set to be completed by the fall of 2024.
"What most excites me about going to Montbello High School is following my father's footsteps in baseball," said Sanders' son, Sean Dammond.
While it's baseball for the Sanders men, it was football for me. There was never a better feeling than scoring a touchdown for the Warriors in 2003.
On Warrior pride, I think Sanders put it best, "For us to have our school back in the center of our community is just absolutely everything."
Construction of the new Montbello campus is funded by $130 million in bond investments backed by Denver voters.
The work under way means a two week delay for the start of school. First day of school for DPS students is Aug. 22. Montbello freshmen, however, start Aug. 26, and 10th through 12th graders start Sept. 6.
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