Along with blue and gold balloons, an array of district dignitaries and the usual first-day-of-school jitters, there was a sense of excitement among the 220 ninth-graders who gathered Monday morning outside Denver’s Northfield High School.

Before entering the gymnasium building for a welcome assembly, Larry Esteen and his friends Elijah and Earl Watkins said they felt good about starting at Denver Public Schools’ newest high school.

“This is good because I’ve been getting bored in the summer,” Esteen said.

Northfield High ninth-graders head out of the gymnasium for their first day of classes.
Northfield High ninth-graders head out of the gymnasium for their first day of classes.

“I see familiar faces,” said Earl Watkins, scanning the crowd for friends from middle school.

All three boys, who plan to play football for the Northfield Nighthawks, said they think the school is going to be cooler than other district high schools they could have attended.

“Better opportunities,” Esteen said.

Northfield, the district’s first new comprehensive high school in 35 years, is located on the corner of Central Park Boulevard and 56th Avenue in fast-growing northeast Denver.

Its approach to education will be a bit different than that of its counterparts around the city. First, it will offer the International Baccalaureate program to all students—addressing concerns raised at other schools that minority students have been shut out of the prestigious diploma program.

Northfield stats
The school primarily draws from the following neighborhoods:
  • Green Valley Ranch
  • Montbello
  • East Park Hill
  • Stapleton

Student demographics

  • 29.4% Black
  • 30.7% Hispanic
  • 30% White
  • 8% multiple races
  • 2.8% Asian
  • .5% American Indian/Alaskan Native

Percent of students eligible for free and reduced-price meals

  • about 54%

Northfield also requires daily physical education classes, starts two weeks earlier than most district schools, and has a later daily start time than most other high schools, running from 8:45 a.m. to 4:45 p.m.

On Monday, before students dispersed to search for their first-period classes, they listened to welcome remarks from Principal Avi Tropper, Superintendent Tom Boasberg, School Board President Happy Haynes and School Board Member Landri Taylor.

“You’re the founding class of Northfield High School,” said Boasberg, standing in front of the shiny gold and navy nighthawk logo emblazoned in the middle of the gym floor.

“Every year that you’re here, every day that you’re here, you’re the leaders of this school,” he said to applause from students, parents and staff.

Students were encouraged to ring the bell under the red archway as they entered Northfield High School for their first day on Monday.
Students were encouraged to ring the bell under the red archway as they entered Northfield High School for their first day on Monday.

At around 9:15 a.m., Tropper asked students to pull out their schedules and report to class in the academic building, at the front of the Paul Sandoval campus.

Friends Ben Chew and Adam Snowden, sitting near the top of the bleachers, scrutinized the white forms while waiting to be officially dismissed.

Chew said he anticipated an interesting year.

“I think it’s going to be cool to be part of a new school and establish a culture,” he said.

Snowden, wearing a navy Northfield T-shirt, admitted that he wasn’t too excited about the year. He complained about having to read five school-assigned books and do corresponding assignments during the summer.

“I felt like it was a little over the top,” he said, listing off other district high schools where there was little or no summer work.

After the assembly, Tropper chuckled about the comment as he hurried along the sidewalk to the academic building. If summer reading was the biggest complaint so far, “I’ll take it,” he said.