Published April 3, 2016
The past three years have seen a lot of change in the Denver Public Schools – particularly when it comes to the campuses and education programs serving our students.
It’s thanks to Denver Public Schools’ 2012 Bond and Mill Levy, two voter-approved initiatives supporting students and families in every part of the city.
The investments came at a critical time following The Great Recession of the late 2000s.
“Quite frankly, I think our schools never have enough funding. But after the recession, we just haven’t recovered in the way that we’ve needed to,” said Lisa Flores, the Denver School Board member and co-chair of the 2012 Mill Levy Oversight Committee.
The 2012 Bond helps DPS meet various needs across the city, with every school receiving bond funding to provide significant campus renovations (such as HVAC system overhauls), building expansions and retrofits (such as open design classroom changes), technology investments or up-to-date security systems. DPS was also able to build new school campuses – such as the Paul Sandoval Campus in Northfield – in growing communities.
An example of a school community with significant Bond investments is at the Denver West campus, where a new technology lab has found a legion of aspiring engineers, computer scientists and just plain techies.
“Seeing it now compared to what was here four years ago, it’s a transformation,” said Alejandra Fierro, a senior at West Leadership Academy. “It gives us more space to explore options for the future. This is more science and technology-based, and it (gives us a look) at things different from the more traditional subjects.”
Among other investments at the West campus is an updated gymnasium floor, which is a much safer environment for athletics and events.
“When we had pep rallies in the past, the floor was pretty old-looking,” said Austin Gutierrez, a senior at West Generation Academy. “Now, we’ve got pretty nice designs that make this a really nice place for the community to see a basketball game.”
That community investment is not only in the buildings, but also in opportunities. The 2012 Mill Levy supports every DPS student with programs from arts and PE, to math tutoring and early childhood education.
One of the most vibrant examples of the 2012 Mill Levy’s success is at Hamilton Middle School, where a new dance program has exposed literally thousands of students to dancing.
Dance Instructor Joseph DeMers estimates as many as 95% of his students had never danced before stepping into his dance studio — which was previously used for discipline.
“This has been an incredible, incredible experience,” said DeMers. “They dance with confidence and we get to live an artistic experience that is outside of their norm, but is now a part of their lives.”
How do you sum up the impact of a community’s investment on our school system? Perhaps the best way to understand it is in the stories of gratitude toward those who made this possible: the Denver community.
“Technology is something different than what I was planning on pursuing in my life, and I may never have a career that has anything to do with technology. But because of this space, I feel like a more well-rounded and worldly person,” said Alejandra Fierro, a senior at West Leadership Academy.
“To the voters, I thank you,” said DeMers. “Students have fallen in love in an area where they can excel on so many levels.”