COVID vaccines, declining enrollment, and teacher retention
BY PEYTON GARCIA | @CITYCASTDENVER
A LOOK AT LOCAL EDUCATION
There’s no denying it’s been a really hard couple of years for everyone, but perhaps especially so for students, teachers, and school staff. Figuring out how to navigate a global pandemic required a lot of flexibility, patience, and blind faith from all aspects of our schools. Here’s some of the latest news coming out of our local education system.
💰 Denver teacher retention bonuses were a bust
Back before we had any idea the kind of havoc COVID-19 was going to wreak on schools, the talk of the town was the 2019 teacher strikes — the first Denver teacher strike in 25 years. DPS educators picketed and called for higher, more predictable pay and an end to the merit-based pay system the district formerly operated on.
Results of the bargaining included keeping the $2,500 bonus incentive program used to attract and retain teachers in hard-to-fill positions and at high-needs schools, despite the teachers union’s belief that the incentives were ineffective. Turns out, the union was right. According to a study conducted by CU Boulder researchers, an analysis of the bonuses showed that they weren’t enough to attract teachers to high-needs schools or keep them there. The union and the district are scheduled to meet again in the spring and reassess the program. [Chalkbeat]
💉 COVID-19 vaccination dashboard for schools
Last week, Colorado health officials unveiled a new COVID-19 dashboard showing vaccination rates at schools around the state, confirming vast disparities along political and socioeconomic lines. For instance, Boulder High has a vax rate of 82% while many rural elementary schools have rates in the single digits. In general, vax rates in Colorado schools sit above the national average, but remain below what state health officials would like to see. [Chalkbeat]
🏫 Adams City High, other Adams 14 schools at risk for closure
Adams County School District 14 has received failing marks from the State Board of Education for the last decade. Now, a state review panel wants to take away the district’s autonomy and completely reorganize it. The panel’s recommendations include closing the district’s only comprehensive high school, Adams City High, among other schools. The panel is also recommending neighboring districts step in to help manage Adams 14.
The Commerce City district serves more than 6,000 students, more than half of whom are English-learners from working-class families. The next hearing on the matter is scheduled for April 14. Community members have until 5 p.m. on April 8 to submit comments to the State Board of Education. [Chalkbeat]
🎒 Jeffco school district deals with declining enrollment
Following the swift closure of Allendale Elementary School in Arvada last year, the Jeffco school district has announced plans to also close Arvada’s Fitzmorris Elementary at the end of this school year due to low enrollment. An aging population, declining birth rates, and rising housing costs are some of the contributors to the drop in enrollment. Jeffco is the second largest school district in the state behind Denver Public Schools, which has also seen a dip in enrollment in recent years. [Chalkbeat]
🎓 Justice for the displaced students of Manual High
Tay Anderson, vice president of the Denver school board, is leading an initiative to distribute diplomas to the hundreds of former Manual High students whose education was disrupted by the school’s abrupt and temporary closure in 2006. The diplomas would go out to the displaced students even if they graduated from another school. Anderson, a Manual grad himself, says students “had their education unjustly interrupted due to politics.” [Denver Post]
TODAY ON THE PODCAST ⚕️
“[Dr. Gaudiani] would say that her core work is to help people recover, and lead normal lives — but in these rare cases, where someone’s dying in a horrific way, it’s her duty as a physician to ease their pain and give them some control over that death.” — CO Sun Reporter Jennifer Brown
Should Anorexia Patients Have a Right to Die Under Colorado Law?
In 2016, Colorado voters passed a controversial law giving doctors the option to prescribe people with terminal illnesses a type of medication that facilitates a peaceful death on the patient’s terms. Recently, one Denver-based doctor took the debate over aid-in-dying to a new level, when she published a paper arguing that it should be available to patients with certain eating disorders. Dr. Jennifer Gaudiani argues that some patients suffer such extreme cases of anorexia that it should be treated as a life-ending illness.
Today on the show, host Bree Davies talks with Colorado Sun reporter Jennifer Brown about this new turn in the death-with-dignity debate, and what it could mean for people who suffer from life-threatening eating disorders all across the country.
BIRTHDAY LOVE 🥳
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MORE NEWS YOU SHOULD KNOW
📜 “The time is not only right; it is long overdue,” said Bob Fuchigami, a survivor of Camp Amache, Colorado’s former Japanese-American internment camp. After more than 50 years of advocacy from camp survivors, descendants, and allies, Amache has finally been designated a national historic site. [CO Sun]
🏨Remember Denver’s plans to make that motel an emergency shelter? It’s been nearly a year since Mayor Hancock announced that the city planned to purchase the old Stay Inn motel in the Central Park neighborhood to shelter people experiencing homelessness. This month, Denver finally received the federal funding it was waiting on to make the purchase. [Westword]
⚖️ “I don’t like the way it looked. But it was still in policy,” said Patrick Phelan, the retired Denver police commander who oversaw the police response to local 2020 protests over the death of George Floyd. Phelan took the witness stand alongside several other officers last week as part of the ongoing federal trial against the city of Denver in which a group of protesters is alleging excessive use of force. [Denverite; CO Politics]
💰 Planning to sneak into I-70’s express lanes? I’d reconsider: Last week, Gov. Polis signed a bill into law that will allow CDOT to issue fines ranging from $10 to $250 if you’re caught sneaking into the highway’s express lanes when they’re closed. [Denver Post]