Group still fighting co-location at North

A Northwest Denver community group opposed to sharing space at North High School with a charter high school is making a last-ditch effort to revise the plan, while conceding Denver school board members likely will approve the original initiative next month.

The Choose North Now or CNN leadership is proposing that STRIVE High School, scheduled to open in the fall of 2013, be located at the former Remington Elementary building, also in Northwest Denver, instead of the North High campus.

North already shares space with STRIVE Highlands Middle School and the original plan would move the middle school to Remington; CNN is now advocating to keep the middle school at North and put the high school at Remington instead.

“Keeping STRIVE Highlands at North will be less disruptive,” said Michael Kiley, a CNN member who led a meeting of the group Tuesday evening at North High School to brief parents and community residents about the issue. The Remington site is large enough to accommodate STRIVE High School, he said, and its target enrollment number of 500.

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About 50 people attended the meeting and broke up into groups after Kiley’s presentation to address questions about what to do next. The consensus of the five group reports was that the Denver Board of Education was not listening to the community and was prepared to force the two high schools together.

One member asked why the Northwest Denver community was not being given a chance to reject the plan, unlike the Lake campus community, which overwhelmingly said no to an alternative proposal to locate the charter high school there. Members of CNN and STRIVE, formerly West Denver Prep, suggested Lake as a possible alternative last month but Lake staff and community members objected to the idea.

“We don’t support any co-location,” Kiley said. “You don’t solve a problem by creating another problem.”

Kiley said the schools that feed North High School are seeing rapid growth and that this will be reflected in increasing student enrollment at the high school. He said figures from 2009 to 2011 show a 33 percent increase in student enrollment at Skinner Middle School.

Such increases, fueled by gentrification in Northwest Denver, may lead to a situation where the two high schools, if placed side-by-side, would have 500 fewer seats than needed to accommodate the growth, he said.

About 50 people attended a Choose North Now meeting Tuesday for an update on the proposed co-location of a STRIVE charter high school at the North High campus.

“With gentrification comes the baby stroller and with strollers come grade schools,” Kiley said.

CNN statistics indicate North High School could have as many as 1,500 students by 2016. This could create an acute space shortage at the North campus acute if STRIVE High School is located there, the presentation concluded.

“They underestimate the demand for traditional schools,” said Renee Martinez-Stone, a CNN member, about the school board’s support for locating STRIVE High School at North. “We should have the option to say no. Co-location is a bad idea.”

Two members of the school board, Jeannie Kaplan and Arturo Jimenez, attended the meeting. Kaplan expressed support for CNN’s central premise that co-location is disruptive and harmful to education: “Co-location is not good unless it, ideally, comes from the community,” she said.

Added Martinez-Stone, about the struggle to find a home for STRIVE: “Don’t play one community against another.”

STRIVE was slated to share space with North until a community firestorm over the plan erupted earlier this year. The board backed off and allowed a group of STRIVE and North parent and school leaders to attempt to find an alternative.

Audience members broke up into five groups after the Choose North Now presentation to talk about possible next steps.

In September, the coalition released an alternative plan recommending the adoption of one of three options. The preferred option presented by the group was to locate STRIVE High School at the Lake Campus. The other two options suggested opening the new high school at either Valdez Elementary School or Trevista K-8. But all three options had a measure of swap outs between middle and elementary facilities in a game of musical classrooms.

The Lake alternative foundered, though, when school community members indicated their displeasure. The Lake campus, located off Sloan’s Lake in Northwest Denver, already is home to the Lake International Academy and a STRIVE middle school program. Lake parents and teachers said they did not want to switch out the STRIVE middle program for a high school program.

“Lake has no interest. And if Lake rejects, the default will apply,” Kiley said. “This isn’t about STRIVE. This is about co-location. This decision does not mean we are done, but we’ve got a lot of work to do.”

Suggestions about what to do next included demanding the board vote in advance of the November election, which includes two school district ballot proposals, and pursuing possible legal remedies. The school board meets Thursday but is not expected to decide on the co-location then, so a vote isn’t likely until after Nov. 6.

Despite the setback to their hopes for an alternative, Kiley said CNN isn’t going away.

“We will continue to oppose co-location,” he said. “We don’t want to displace any existing school. We’re going to make sure we support the feeder system and continue to support North.”

Weekend Reads

Need classroom decor inspiration? These educators have got you covered.

This school year, students will spend about 1,000 hours in school —making their classrooms a huge part of their learning experience.

We’re recognizing educators who’ve poured on the pizazz to make students feel welcome. From a 9th-grade “forensics lab” decked out in caution tape to a classroom stage complete with lights to get first graders pumped about public speaking, these crafty teachers have gone above and beyond to create great spaces.

Got a classroom of your own to show off? Know someone that should be on this list? Let us know!

Jaclyn Flores, First Grade Dual Language, Rochester, New York
“Having a classroom that is bright, cheerful, organized and inviting allows my students to feel pride in their classroom as well as feel welcome. My students look forward to standing on the stage to share or sitting on special chairs to dive into their learning. This space is a safe place for my students and we take pride in what it has become.”

Jasmine, Pre-K, Las Vegas, Nevada
“My classroom environment helps my students because providing calming colors and a home-like space makes them feel more comfortable in the classroom and ready to learn as first-time students!”


Oneika Osborne, 10th Grade Reading, Miami Southridge Senior High School, Miami, Florida
“My classroom environment invites all of my students to constantly be in a state of celebration and self-empowerment at all points of the learning process. With inspirational quotes, culturally relevant images, and an explosion of color, my classroom sets the tone for the day every single day as soon as we walk in. It is one of optimism, power, and of course glitter.”

Kristen Poindexter, Kindergarten, Spring Mill Elementary School, Indianapolis, Indiana
“I try very hard to make my classroom a place where memorable experiences happen. I use songs, finger plays, movement, and interactive activities to help cement concepts in their minds. It makes my teacher heart so happy when past students walk by my classroom and start their sentence with, “Remember when we…?”. We recently transformed our classroom into a Mad Science Lab where we investigated more about our 5 Senses.”


Brittany, 9th Grade Biology, Dallas, Texas
“I love my classroom environment because I teach Biology, it’s easy to relate every topic back to Forensics and real-life investigations! Mystery always gets the students going!”


Ms. Heaton, First Grade, Westampton, New Jersey
“As an educator, it is my goal to create a classroom environment that is positive and welcoming for students. I wanted to create a learning environment where students feel comfortable and in return stimulates student learning. A classroom is a second home for students so I wanted to ensure that the space was bright, friendly, and organized for the students to be able to use each and every day.”

D’Essence Grant, 8th Grade ELA, KIPP Houston, Houston, Texas
“Intentionally decorating my classroom was my first act of showing my students I care about them. I pride myself on building relationships with my students and them knowing I care about them inside and outside of the classroom. Taking the time to make the classroom meaningful and creative as well building a safe place for our community helps establish an effective classroom setting.”


Jayme Wiertzema, Elementary Art, Worthington, Minnesota
“I’m looking forward to having a CLASSROOM this year. The past two years I have taught from a cart and this year my amazing school district allowed me to have a classroom in our school that is busting at the seams! I’m so excited to use my classroom environment to inspire creativity in my students, get to know them and learn from their amazing imaginations in art class!”


Melissa Vecchio, 4th Grade, Queens, New York
“Since so much of a student’s time is spent inside their classroom, the environment should be neat, organized, easy to move around in but most of all positive. I love to use a theme to reinforce great behavior. I always give the students a choice in helping to design bulletin boards and desk arrangements. When they are involved they take pride in the classroom, and enjoy being there.”

moving forward

After Confederate flag dispute at Colorado football game, schools pledge to bring students together

PHOTO: Marc Piscotty
Manual High students.

Acknowledging “we may never have a conclusive picture of what happened,” two Colorado school districts sought to move past a controversy over whether a Confederate flag was displayed at a football game and open a conversation between the two school communities.

The principal of Manual High, Nick Dawkins, wrote in a community letter over the weekend that the visiting Weld Central High School team “displayed a Confederate flag during the first quarter of the (Friday night) game, offending many members of the Manual community.”

Officials from Denver Public Schools and Weld County School District Re-3J released a joint letter Tuesday saying that based “on what we have learned to date, however, the Weld Central team did not display the Confederate flag.” At the same time, it said, multiple Manual eyewitnesses “reported seeing spectators who attempted to bring a Confederate flag into the game and clothing with flag images.”

Going forward, students from the two schools — one rural and one urban — will participate in a student leadership exchange that has student leaders visit each other’s schools and communities to “share ideas and perspectives,” the letter says.

“At a time in our country when so many are divided, we want our students instead to come together, share ideas and learn together,” says the letter, which is signed by the principals of both schools and the superintendents of both school districts.

The alleged incident took place at a time when issues of race, social injustice, politics and sports are colliding in the United States, making for tough conversations, including in classrooms.

Weld Central’s mascot is a Rebel. Manual, whose mascot is the Thunderbolts, is located in one of Denver’s historically African-American neighborhoods.

Dawkins in his initial community letter also said “the tension created by the flag led to conflict on and off the playing field,” and that three Manual players were injured, including one who went to the hospital with a leg injury. He also said some Manual players reported that Weld Central players “taunted them with racial slurs.”

Weld Central officials vehemently denied that their team displayed the flag. In addition, they said in their own community letter they had “no evidence at this point that any of our student athletes displayed racially motivated inappropriate behavior.”

They said district officials “do not condone any form of racism,” including the Confederate flag.

Weld Central fans told the Greeley Tribune that they didn’t see any Confederate flag.

Read the full text below.