(Update: This story reflects the most recent information available about Swigert’s planned additional classrooms.)
The closure of Denver Discovery School at the end of this year will allow Swigert International, which shares the building with DDS, to triple its early childhood slots next year from 20 to 60.
In addition, Swigert Principal Shelby Dennis says she wants to add another three rooms, for a total of six, in the coming years. She is waiting for the final go ahead from the district.
“We’re super excited to be able to have that many seat offerings and at the same time use the space well,” she says.
In addition, with the new space, Central Park’s Swigert will be able to add a classroom for kindergarten, first and second grades. By the 2024-25 school year, it expects to have four classrooms for every grade.
Swigert’s enrollment is expected to eventually increase to 700 from its current 565, Dennis says.
Demand for ECE space has consistently outpaced supply in Central Park, something Dennis knows well having been an instructional coach, literacy specialist and assistant principal before becoming principal in 2017. This jump in openings will help address that, as well as let Dennis recruit outside Central Park to achieve more diversity of students in the school at 35th Avenue and Syracuse Street.
“That’s our goal,’’ she says. “It gives us the opportunity to grow (number of) kids and be really inclusive about it.”
DDS, a middle school, opened in 2014 and began losing students following the 2016-17 school year. Its original principal left after mismanaging the budget, followed by a series of interim leaders; its education program, discipline and test scores suffered.
By 2018-19, enrollment dropped from well over 400 to 264. A permanent principal was hired in 2021, but by then, enrollment had shrunk to 113, then to 93 this year. Projections called for 62 students next year.
DDS is one of three schools that the district says suffers from “critically low enrollment.” The other two: Math and Science Leadership Academy in the Valverde neighborhood off West Alameda, and Fairview Elementary, south of Mile High stadium. MSLA is projected to have 104 students next year; Fairview’s outlook is 118.
Denver Public Schools is considering closing or consolidating at least another dozen schools with low enrollment over the next few years.
Fewer than 215 students is considered financially untenable because schools receive most of their money based on the number of students. Fewer students equals fewer dollars. To keep DDS afloat, the district spent $31,517 this year for each of its 93 students – $21,000 more than the district average.
The Foundation for Sustainable Urban Communities supports many Central Park public schools, including Swigert, with grants for education programing.