(Photo: Beach Court Elementary)
By: Thomas Jones, Staff Reporter
This last Thursday on October the 12th proved to be an exceptionally important day for Regis’s neighbor, Beach Court Elementary School. At 4:30 PM, in the auditorium of Beach Court, Denver Public Schools, or DPS, held an event to disclose their newest School Performance rating of Beach Court, which would then ultimately decide the elementary school’s future. If Beach Court had improved to a rating that DPS saw as adequate then they would remain open as a Denver Public Elementary School, but, if Beach Court hadn’t improved as much as DPS would like, then it would most likely be closed to soon be reopened as a Charter school. The process of a Public-school closing and then reopening as a Charter-school is known as a restart.
The title of “School Performance Conversation” seems to seek to elicit a light-hearted attitude in an attempt to cover up the true meaning behind this event, however, as soon as I entered the Beach Court auditorium I can say with confidence that this light-hearted titling didn’t cover up the reality that every parent in attendance seemed to be holding their breath.
Applause spread across the Beach Court auditorium as soon as the slide went up on the projector screen in the front of the room showing that the school had improved its School Performance rating, also known as SPF, to a level seen as adequate by DPS. Through the applause you could hear Leah Schultz-Bartlett, the Principal at Beach Court, say, “The good news is that with our most recent SPF, we are strongly at yellow!” DPS has color-coded SPF’s to determine how good or bad a school is doing. From worst to best, the ratings go: red, orange, yellow, green, blue.
In 2014 Beach Court had an SPF of 36.6% which falls into the orange category, or, the second to worst category as far as school performance is concerned. In 2015 there was no SPF for Beach Court or any of the schools within the Denver Public Schools districts; this is because the state had new school assessments it was making statewide, so DPS had to pause its recordings of school’s SPF’s for a year so it could readjust its rating system to match up to the new statewide assessments. In 2016 Beach Court’s SPF dropped to 30.7% which placed it into the red, or worst, category. This 2016 SPF is the rating that started the inquiry by DPS into the possibility of closing down Beach Court and doing a restart if Beach Court wasn’t able to improve its SPF.
However, in just one year’s time, Beach Court was not only able to move out of the red, but they managed to move themselves up two whole categories, going from red to orange and then from orange to yellow.
Principal Schultz-Bartlett went over some of the reasons Beach Court has been able to improve so much as a school; citing, both actions taken by Beach Court, especially in utilizing the $720,000 DPS has given them over the last two years to hire more staff and create new programs such as their STEM lab at Beach Court, as well as actions which the community has committed in support of Beach Court.
To give an example of these community actions the Principal specifically thanked Regis, stating, “We have a strong partnership with Regis University, and a program called First Grade First and they provide one on one reading instruction for students.” This program is carried out by volunteers from the local community who give up time out of their day to go to Beach Court and help the students there keep up with their grade required reading level, many of these volunteers at Beach Court come from the Regis University Debate team. The Regis Debate team’s volunteer work in conjunction with the First Grade First program has proven to be quite effective in helping improve Beach Court’s situation.
Principal Schultz-Bartlett stated that beach court “Saw big improvements in early literacy this year,” and that Beach Court “met and exceeded expectations of early literacy across the board in the current SPF.” The principal emphasized how influential the community service work has been in helping beach court; “We really heavily rely on our community and our family partnerships to be able to move this work forward.”
Despite the incredible work Beach Court has done, it still has a long road ahead filled with many challenges. Currently, Beach Court lies in the yellow category of DPS’s SPF ratings. While yellow is exceptionally better than red, where Beach Court once resided, the school's ultimate goal is to move up into the higher tier green and blue category SPF’s. However, Beach Court’s moving up into these higher SPF’s can bring about problems of its own, especially for a lower income school like Beach Court which doesn’t have nearly the same amount of donor money and number of volunteer-able, non-working parents as public schools in higher income areas. These problems Beach Court will soon face in years to come is a slow deterioration of funding from DPS.
When DPS saw that Beach Court was in the orange and the red, it began an influx of funding to help Beach Court hire more employees and create more academic programs, but, as Beach Court increases its SPF rating, it’s newfound funding from DPS will slowly decrease. A DPS worker at the Beach Court School Performance Conversation stated that the funding will gradually decrease and “Shift” as the school identifies what they can cover in their budget. This, of course, raises many questions as to what will happen as these new Beach Court employees and programs, which were touted as quite essential to Beach Court’s recent success, as the DPS funding which allowed them to come into existence slowly disappears. It very well could mean that the community support, such as Regis’s help with the First Grade First reading program, may soon be essential than ever to Beach Court Elementary School.