Fight Coming Over Closure of Manual High School

April 2006

Manual High School is scheduled to be closed in the fall for one year. A fight is brewing over the closure and civil rights attorney David Lane has agreed to represent those opposing the closure .

Black Church Leaders with the Greater Metro Denver Ministerial Alliance and Hispanic clergy with the Confianza Ministerial Coalition say the move by the district is a racist attempt at pushing minorities out of Northeast Denver. Lane says he will look at whether the school closure is a civil rights violation. He says his law firm will investigate the possibility of filing a lawsuit in federal court to stop the closure of Manual.

There's no dispute that Manual's enrollment was down. What the community leaders object to is the way the decision was made -- behind closed doors.

District leaders have said repeatedly that the decision to close Manual was made because enrollment had dropped at the school by nearly 50% over the last five years. In 2001, Manual High was divided into three separate programs each with a unique focus as an experiment to find a better way to teach urban students. Superintendent Michael Bennet has said that dividing the school was a failure that's why a new plan is needed at the school.

On Friday, Superintendent Michael Bennet announced the formation of an advisory committee to oversee the redesign of Manual High School.

"This committee will advise the district as we follow through on our pledge to reopen Manual High School in 2007 with a vibrant, dynamic educational program that meets the needs of neighborhood students and families," said Superintendent Bennet.

To say the school will be "reopened" in 2007 is a little disingenous. Yes, it will reopen, but only to freshman that year, with grades 10, 11 and 12 being added one at a time in sequential years. A school plan for only 9th graders sounds a little lonely, to say the least. Socialization with older students seems like an essential component of a successful 9th grade program. The Superintendent's announcement lists "declining academic performance, enrollment and resources for students" as reasons for the closure. Could it be that instead of lumping those three factors together, the District should look at whether declining resources for students has resulted in reduced performance and enrollment? Why can't DPD agree to provide the same resources to Manual that it provides to other high schools and then see whether an increase in enrollment and performance follows, before closing the school? It sounds to me like closure is putting the cart before the horse.

Tags: