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Central Park enrollment looks stable after first round of choice. Izzi B boosted kinder kids by 30% as strong marketing pays off.

While enrollment has declined in other parts of Denver, Central Park schools remain stable with some likely to boost enrollment in the coming year, according to results of the first round of the annual choice process that ended April 28.

In particular, Isabella Bird Community School is reversing a five-year downward trend by enrolling 30% more kindergarteners than it had this year – up to 95 from 69. Eighty-six in 2018-19 was the previous high for kindergarten.

The initial projection for kinder was 70, said Izzi B Principal Rebecca Mercer. The higher numbers mean an additional teacher and four K classrooms.

“We are thrilled with this kindergarten enrollment,” Mercer said. “And we have deep gratitude and appreciation to our marketing team. We know this is a result of their incredible work.”

That increase suggests continued growth since it is not uncommon for students to remain in the school where they start kindergarten.

Denver Public Schools has a “choice enrollment’’ system that allows parents to rank up to 12 schools they’d like their children to attend. Students in any grade can utilize the process. However, it is especially important for students in “transition’’ grades when they are likely changing schools: kindergarten, sixth and ninth grade.

District wide, 89% to 93% of applicants got a seat in their first or second choice for kindergarten, sixth and ninth grades.

In some areas, such as Central Park, DPS established “enrollment zones’’ rather than typical signal school boundaries. A student living in a zone is guaranteed a seat at one school in that zone. DPS has 13 zones.

Enrollment numbers will change by the fall with families relocating during the summer, and as some students move off and on waitlists. Round two of the choice process has begun for families who didn’t participate in round one or would like to change their school. It ends Aug. 31. (Below are two charts showing grades that families applied for and numbers of accepted and waitlisted students. Some schools have no waitlist because they are satisfied with their numbers but that will likely change by the fall.)

District enrollment has been declining for several years. Since 2019, DPS enrollment has dropped from 94,000 to 89,213 this year. Three schools were closed for next year and another 12 have enrollments below what school financing can support.

The two primary traditional middle schools in the area, Denver Green School – Northfield and McAuliffe International, were pleased with their choice performance.

Denver Green had 615 applications for sixth grade. DGS-N accepted 163 and will likely take another 20 or so by the start of school in August.

“We saw strong interest. We’re very pleased,’’ said lead partner Kartal Jaquette. “Our school resonates with folks, that’s for sure.’’

Along with being strong academically, Denver Green is appealing for practical reasons such as a convenient location, Jaquette said. With Denver Discovery closing because of low enrollment, some concern has grown about scarce middle school space in the coming years.

Jaquette doesn’t share that worry. With his school, McAuliffe and two DSST middle schools, he believes Central Park has the seats it needs.

“It’s (number of rising middle school students) has probably hit its high-water mark,’’ he said noting there are roughly 800 sixth graders in zone. “I don’t see a need to open another middle school.”

McAuliffe attracted 826 applications for sixth grade. Principal Kurt Dennis said he accepted 500 which puts total enrollment at 1,500 for next year.

“That’s ideal,’’ Dennis said. “That was our goal so we’re happy to be there.’’

He calls choice “a good process, a fair process.’’

Westerly Creek had 442 applications for kinder and accepted 108 with 22 on a wait list. This year saw 96 in kinder so “108 is ideal for four rounds (classrooms),’’ said Principal Jill Corcoran.

Corcoran credited aggressive marketing, strong achievement data with 96% of this year’s kinder kids at or above grade level. She was especially pleased with some consistent feedback.

“Parents said we were the only ones to talk about having fun, too,’’ she said.

Shelby Dennis, principal of Swigert, took 108 kinder kids and will have four K rooms for the first time. She is also adding two ECE rooms with space made available with the closing of Denver Discovery, which shared the building with Swigert.

Dennis wants to add another three ECE rooms, for a total of six, in the coming years. She is hopeful the additional classrooms will allow admittance of more diverse students from outside Central Park. The school of 571 students is 36% minority this year.

“We want more diversity in ECE and K but it’s hard to get that with the demand (numbers of students in the Central Park zone),” Dennis said, noting that when a child starts at Swigert they can keep their seat as they progress to fifth grade. “That is something we would love to work with DPS in supporting a way to do that.’’

Central Park Schools Choice Enrollment 2023-24

Source: Denver Public Schools

School Grade Applying Total Applicants
Bill Roberts K-8 K 423
Bill Roberts K-8 6 445
Denver Green School — Northfield 6 615
DSST Conservatory Green MS 6 392
DSST Conservatory Green HS 9 339
DSST Montview MS 6 360
DSST Montview HS 9 194
Inspire ES K 297
Isabella Bird ES K 301
McAuliffe International MS 6 826
Northfield HS 9 1,132
Swigert International ES K 421
Westerly Creek ES K 442
Willow ES K 339

Central Park Schools Choice Enrollment 2023-24

School Grade Applying Accepted Waitlisted
Bill Roberts K-8 K 105 20
Bill Roberts K-8 6 88 88
Denver Green School — Northfield 6 163 0
DSST Conservatory Green MS 6 163 0
DSST Conservatory Green HS 9 22 117
DSST Montview MS 6 151 0
DSST Montview HS 9 46 16
Inspire ES K 103 24
Isabella Bird ES K 90 0
McAuliffe International MS 6 500 0
Northfield HS 9 570 278
Swigert International ES K 92 21
Westerly Creek ES K 108 22
Willow ES K 76 38

The Foundation for Sustainable Urban Communities produces and supports many Central Park public schools with grants for education programing.

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