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Denver board approves charter school for black students

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After the state ordered Denver revise charter school dedicated to black students and culture, the Denver School Board on Thursday approved the school’s opening next fall.

But approval comes with conditions, including that 5280 Freedom School must fill all available seats in the first year. The school plans to open with 52 students in kindergarten and first grade, and add grades each year through fifth grade.

Denver schools are funded on a per-pupil basis, and other new charter schools were required to do so opening delay because they didn’t recruit enough students. Existing charter schools closed because their recruitment has shrunk and the district has considering closure some own schools due to low enrollment. School council initially rejected 5280 Freedom School, fearing it would struggle to attract enough students to be financially viable.

Freedom School 5280 appealed the board’s denial. Last month, the state Board of Education ordered Denver to reconsider its decision. State board members said it was unfair to assume 5280 Freedom School would face the same challenges as other charters.

The school grew out of a summer camp program focused on the welfare of black children, teaching them about black history, African drumming, poetry, nutrition and more. Families loved the camp so much they asked for a year-round school, founder Branta Lockett said.

“The reason our school is so necessary is because DPS has failed black students and other marginalized students over time,” Lockett told the State Board of Education at a hearing last month. She gave several examples, including disproportionate discipline black students and art sub-identification black students as gifted. The district was founded recently by the state violated rights black boys with disabilities attending specialized programs.

The Denver School Board approved the school unanimously without discussion.

Melanie Asmar is a senior reporter for Chalkbeat Colorado covering Denver Public Schools. Contact Melanie at masmar@chalkbeat.org.

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