Denver’s second-largest charter school network has decided to merge two of its high schools, effectively closing one of them. The reason? Declining student enrollment, which is a districtwide issue affecting not only charter schools but district-run schools, too.
The STRIVE Prep board of directors voted unanimously Monday night to close STRIVE Prep — Excel, a high school that serves about 260 students this year. Excel is located inside North High School, a traditional school in northwest Denver that had space to spare when Excel moved in.
Excel will close at the end of this school year. Next year, it will merge with STRIVE Prep — Smart, a high school of nearly 500 students located about 5 miles south of Excel.
“We believe it’s in the best interest of kids to make this move,” said STRIVE Prep founder and CEO Chris Gibbons. “The small school size at Excel has an impact on the course offerings and on our ability to provide a high-quality program.”
Merging the schools will allow Smart to offer more elective classes and extracurricular activities that are difficult to staff at a small school like Excel, he said.
STRIVE’s decision is significant because it could be a harbinger of things to come. After years of rapid growth, demographers predict enrollment in Denver Public Schools will soon begin to shrink.