Denver to begin Kepner Middle School overhaul Wednesday evening

Denver Public Schools will launch an 18-month reboot process at Kepner Middle School on Wednesday evening, when district officials meet with the struggling school’s community.

Citing “significantly below” average academic growth, DPS officials hope to introduce either new programs or perhaps an entirely new school model offered at Kepner by the fall of 2015. No immediate program or personnel changes are planed, Superintendent Tom Boasberg said in a January 30 letter sent home to the school’s parents.

“Principal Stephen Linkous and the entire Kepner staff have worked incredibly hard and care deeply about their students,” Boasberg wrote. “At the district level, we have also provided Kepner with significant additional resources and supports in recognition of our students’ needs. But even with this dedication and these supports, we are not moving quickly enough toward our goal of preparing all students for success in high school and beyond.”

In the letter, the district said they are encouraging Linkous, Kepner teachers, and “other educational leaders” to propose plans for the school.

Kepner has ranked among the district’s lowest middle schools for two years, earning just 22 points out of 100 on its annual performance review in 2013. Thirty percent of Kepner students scored proficient or advanced in every subject on last year’s state standardized test.

Other district middle schools with similar ratings on state reviews, such as Smiley or West Generation, are either being phased out or are a part of other turnaround efforts.

The district has no plans to close Kepner, which serves about 1,000 students in southwest Denver, and the school will continue to enroll students. Nearly 100 percent of Kepner’s student body qualifies for free or reduced lunch. Similarly, 95 percent of the student body is either black or Latino. About 60 percent of students are English language learners.

The district hopes to present its plan for Kepner to Denver’s board of education by June.

“We need the best leaders and best ideas of this district [at Kepner],” said board member Arturo Jimenez. “This school is made up of all the populations we’ve declared as priorities. We need to back up and give them the proper resources.”

The community meeting tonight begins at 5:30 p.m. Another meeting at 8 a.m. is scheduled for Thursday.