Families in my neighborhood are getting a new school option thanks to a charter network crossing the Denver divide

It’s been less than six months since I moved into Stapleton’s Bluff Lake neighborhood. My neighbors are warm and welcoming. The Bluff Lake Nature Center is the perfect city oasis for a runner like me, and the Stanley Marketplace is quickly becoming one of those places “where everybody knows your name, and they’re always glad you came.” Oh, and there’s a fairly new and popular elementary school just across the street.

What more could anyone want, right?

Well, not to be picky or anything, but access to some high-performing schools would be nice (and I don’t even have school-aged kids yet!).

You see, as a Stapleton resident, my neighbors and I enjoy all the amenities that Stapleton has to offer including pools, parks, and community events. But we don’t share the same access to Stapleton schools. That’s because the dividing line between Denver and Aurora was drawn right down the middle of our street. So while the high-quality school across the street is geographically the closest elementary school to me, it’s part of Denver Public Schools, and the city of Denver doesn’t consider me a resident; Aurora does. That means I pay Aurora taxes and am served by Aurora Public Schools.

Because Colorado is a champion of school choice, by law, families on my side of the street can open enroll kids into any school, including the one across the street. But they’ll only be granted admission if there’s space left after families within Denver’s enrollment zone have all had a chance to enroll first. The odds of someone on my side of the street or elsewhere in Aurora successfully enrolling in one of our neighborhood’s most requested elementary schools aren’t great, and the odds don’t improve when looking at other schools in the neighborhood.

But recently the Denver School of Science & Technology (DSST), one of the country’s top charter school networks, crossed the divider line from Northeast Denver into Northwest Aurora, giving more kids access to a high-quality school close to home. At the invitation of Aurora Public Schools, DSST will open its first school outside of Denver for the start of the 2019 school year and serve 150 6th-grade students. Eventually, the school will grow to serve students in grades 6-12. For the first year, the school will be co-located on Rocky Mountain Prep Fletcher campus. The school will be permanently located on the Anschutz Medical Campus, where students will gain access to an array of STEM courses and experiential learning opportunities with the science and medical professionals on campus.

As a Stapleton-Aurora resident and someone who has built a career working to make sure all students have the opportunity to attend a great school close to home, DSS– I mean the Aurora Science & Tech middle school (AST) is a welcome addition to the neighborhood and the city. And, while I hope the children I have one day will have access to even more quality school options in the area, I’m happy the families currently surrounding me have a new school to consider today.

Students like Mohamadou Maguiraga, a junior at DSST: College View, couldn’t agree more.

When I met him at the community launch for AST, I was struck by two things: his determination to build a future for himself and his passion for making sure other students have access to the same opportunities afforded to him. For the last three years, Mohamadou has taken a one-hour and 20 minute bus ride through Aurora to get to one of DSST’s 14 schools in Denver. And while he’s considered it a small sacrifice to get the education he desires, it’s not an experience he wants his younger siblings or any other kid in Aurora to endure in order to reach their dreams.

To him, every child deserves to have a good school option close to home. And even though he’s got just one year left at DSST, he’s doing what he can to make sure other students know that AST is a great new option and that “that their dreams are not just something swirling around in their heads while they’re sleeping; they’re something they can actually achieve some day.”

Here’s hoping AST can deliver the stuff that dreams are made of for kids in Northwest Aurora.




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