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The Aurora Council is voting in favor of closing two schools and maintaining the floor plan

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The Aurora Council is voting in favor of closing two schools and maintaining the floor plan

On Tuesday, a majority of Aurora’s school board reluctantly voted to close two small schools at the end of next school year.

The district will close Saber and Paris primary schools as part of the district’s deployment of a long-term facility plan known as the Blueprint APS, a plan three council members wanted to abandon.

Board members Debbie Herkin, Michael Carter, Tramain Duncan and Ann Keke voted to close the two schools and keep the plan, while board members Stephanie Mason, Vicki Reinhardt and Nichel Ortiz voted to abandon Blueprint and save the schools.

The approved plan also includes the creation of a new magnetic school on the North High School campus.

The 4-3 vote came just two months after the same council voted to keep the schools, and some parents shouted at board members after the vote. In a public comment, they called for the council to be honored then a preliminary decision and keep schools open.

But because of management policy, when the council rejected the superintendent’s decision, he was forced to return with another proposal. Mann pressed for advice on whether they wanted to change the criteria he used to decide that the two schools were most appropriate to close. After several hours of discussions at numerous meetings, the council had problems formulating new criteria, and sometimes the question of why they should create new principles.

Some board members on Tuesday were still concerned that Mann ignored their March vote and again made the same recommendations to close the school. But Mann explained that he believed this was the best way forward, and in the absence of new guidelines he had no reason to tell another school that they would be closed instead.

“I would just accidentally change my mind – until you change those criteria,” Mann said.

The district has already closed six schools under the Blueprint plan and has allocated more than $ 75 million for new projects. Among them are the creation of two new magnet schools on the campuses of closed schools and the construction of two new buildings.

Blueprint APS is the district’s long-term plan to respond to declining entrants in the western districts of the county and growth on its eastern outskirts. Mann constantly said that the decisions made under the plan are interconnected and cannot act on their own.

Other board options On Tuesday, the long-term plan of facilities was canceled or suspended altogether until the council reviewed more history and gathered new feedback from the community to consider the changes.

But it is destabilizing several schools in the region, Mann said. Employees of other schools could feel uncertain about the future of their schools. In this situation, he would recommend the district pay scholarships to teachers to keep them in schools at risk of closure.

The teacher of one of the schools, which is planned to be closed, said she was not interested in money.

“Save your scholarship, I wanted you to save my school,” said Yolanda Calderon, who is also a board member of the teachers ’union.

When ordered to abandon Blueprint, Mann said he would by default not follow other council policies that would guide him to create his own long-term plan – and that would still lead to school closures.

But, according to Mann, he could adopt a stricter formula that closes schools if the number of enrollments falls below a certain number, which could mean less warning before making a decision. The current approach takes a number of factors into account to recommend school closures. In particular, Sable has not the lowest enrollment among area schools.

Board member Ortiz initially asked the council to vote in favor of abandoning Blueprint, although she feared renouncing control of future plans. This movement failed.

Several neighboring districts are also struggling to close schools due to declining student numbers, and boards have sometimes cited difficult decisions in other districts. Jeffco public schools, for example, have operated for years without a long-term plan to close schools. Over the past two years, two schools in the district have closed, which are expected to have less than 100 students next school year. In each of these cases, families and staff received a warning in just a few months.

Mann said that if Aurora abandons Blueprint, his approach could be more similar to Jeff’s approach.

In public comments, Saber’s parents and staff members and Paris said they felt disrespected and betrayed. Several speakers also stated that they were embarrassed that the council had once again voted on the same recommendations, and questioned the facts presented by the headmaster to justify the school’s closure.

“Why is it still not clear what the exact criteria are?” One mother asked the school board.

Yesenia Robles is a reporter for Chalkbeat Colorado, which covers K-12 school districts and multilingual education. Contact Yesenia by phone yrobles@chalkbeat.org.

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