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Colorado schools get $43 million in grants

Struggling Colorado schools will receive about $43 million in federal turnaround grants over three years.

Nineteen schools in six districts — Denver, Pueblo City, Mesa County District 51, Sheridan, Adams 14 and Center Consolidated School District 26JT — will receive the money, according to the Colorado Department of Education.

The grants are part of the Obama administration’s three-year, $3.5 billion initiative to improve or close 5,000 chronically low-performing schools.

Closing schools is the most politically volatile choice among the four interventions acceptable with the turnaround money.

The other options include replacing the leadership and staff, restarting the school with a charter school and “transforming” the school.

The last option is the most popular.

Montbello High School landed the biggest grant at $3.4 million; North High School in Denver will receive $3.1 million.

North has had four to five reform efforts and leaders in the past decade, but remains among the lowest-performing high schools in the state.

“What is needed now is to allow North the time, space and resources to improve without a ‘huge’ reform,” according to the school’s grant application on the district’s website.

The plan calls for a longer school day, more summer school, personal education plans for each student focused on post-secondary preparedness and a contract signed by student and parent.

A dean of instruction will be hired, as well as a principal coach and an “extended-time learning coordinator.”

Denver has nine schools on the list and will receive about $15 million during the three-year period, including money for two schools that have already closed — Philips Elementary ($36,413) and Skyline Community High School ($35,790). Rishel Middle School, which is being phased out with only one class remaining, is also getting $15,387.

The money is expected follow the students from the shuttered schools.

In Sheridan School District, $2.4 million in turnaround money will flow to struggling Fort Logan Elementary — a school that serves more than 300 low-income students.

Starting in October, students will be in class until about 5 p.m. three days a week.

“It’s very tough to turn a school around in the amount of time you are given in the old agricultural calendar,” said Superintendent Michael Clough. “Summer losses are tremendous. It takes us almost to Nov. 1 to get us where we were in May.”

The district hopes to partner with local organizations to provide after-school activities and will use the money to hire a second shift of teachers to help with academic intervention.

“The bottom line is we need more time for learning,” said Ellen Hunter, Sheridan’s turnaround specialist. “The other focus is closing that opportunity gap. Our kids don’t really come to school with the background, knowledge and opportunities that their middle-class peers come with.”

For suburban students, the school day continues every day with extracurricular activities, such as dance, music lessons or sports, she said.

“Our kids just don’t have the access,” she said. “What we hope we can build is a program that offers all those opportunities for these kids.”

Jeremy P. Meyer: 303-954-1367 or [email protected]


Money to turn

Nineteen Colorado schools got big three-year turnaround grants. The top 10 grants are concentrated in Denver and Pueblo:

Montbello High, Denver Public Schools, $3.4 million

North High School, Denver Public Schools, $3.1 million

Central High School, Pueblo City Schools, $2.8 million

Noel Middle School, Denver Public Schools, $2.8 million

Fort Logan Elementary, Sheridan School District, $2.4 million

Roncalli Middle School, Pueblo City Schools, $2.2 million

Pitts Middle School, Pueblo City Schools, $2.2 million

Risley Middle School, Pueblo City Schools, $2.1 million

Lake Middle School, Denver Public Schools, $2.1 million

Freed Middle School, Pueblo City Schools, $2.1 million

Source: Colorado Department of Education

Mile High Mamas
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