AURORA| A Denver charter school network pitching four new schools in Aurora had its application approved Tuesday by the Aurora Public Schools board — despite concerns by the local teacher union about the long-term effects of adding more charter schools to the APS system.
The APS board approved 5-2 the Denver School of Science and Technology’s application to expand its network of 14 schools into Aurora over four years. The next step is for APS and DSST to draft and approve a contract within the next few months.
If nothing unexpected happens with the contract negotiation process, DSST would be set to open up its first campus in northwest Aurora for the 2019-2020 school year.
While the board approved the application, there are still issues to be worked out, including a potential performance contract clause for the school. The APS board tried to end its relationship last year with HOPE Online Academy and close its underperforming schools in Aurora. That effort was stymied by the Colorado State Board of Education, which forced APS to enter into a new contract with the school.
Bruce Wilcox, the Aurora Education Association’s president elect, along with several teachers, spoke out against the DSST application approval. Wilcox said he was concerned about the long-term effects of on the district and its budget by taking 900 students out of the APS system, and he asked the board to take time to do more research until the next meeting, which takes place in the next school year. A decision that long would have voided the application.
Board members Barbara Yamrick and Eric Nelson voted against the measure.
DSST’s model is to combine a middle and high school on one campus as a way to build a school community, said Heather Lamm, spokeswoman for DSST. As part of that, DSST would start in 2019 with a middle school serving 150 sixth graders and expand the grade selection and school size by a grade each school year. A high school on the same campus would then open during the 2022-2023 school year. The final student total for one campus by the eighth year would be 975 students.
A second campus following the same expansion model as the first campus is proposed for an as yet undetermined area of Aurora in 2021.
Bill Kurtz, CEO of DSST said they were contacted by APS Superintendent Rico Munn about possible expansion into northwest Aurora. Munn supports the application and recommended board approval.
“We’re getting really excellent outcomes for kids of all backgrounds, and that’s fundamental to who we are. No matter what your background is, whether your parents are first generation or refuges. … students deserve the best education,” Kurtz said before the vote on June 20. “We’ve found really good support in the community. We’ve talked to over 1,300 parents and met with a number of community organizations and overwhelmingly the response has been people wanting us to open.”
DSST’s middle and high schools are ranked among the top schools in the Denver Public School system, and the school boasts that its students have a 100-percent acceptance rate into colleges or universities.