New Beginnings

Amid pomp and circumstance, Northfield High School opens its doors to first freshman class

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.

What's Your Education Story?

As the 2018 school year begins, join us for storytelling from Indianapolis educators

PHOTO: Dylan Peers McCoy/Chalkbeat
Sarah TeKolste, right, and Lori Jenkins at a Teacher Story Slam, in April.

In partnership with Teachers Lounge Indy, Chalkbeat is hosting another teacher story slam this fall featuring educators from across the city.

Over the past couple of years, Chalkbeat has brought readers personal stories from teachers and students through the events. Some of our favorites touched on how a teacher won the trust of her most skeptical student, why another teacher decided to come out to his students, and one educator’s call to ramp up the number of students pursuing a college education.

The event, 5:30 p.m. Thursday, Sept. 13, is free and open to the public — please RSVP here.

Event details:

5:30 p.m. to 7:30 p.m.
Thursday, Sept. 13, 2018
Tube Factory artspace
1125 Cruft St., Indianapolis, IN 46203
Get tickets here and find more on Facebook

More in What's Your Education Story?

School safety

Hiring more security officers in Memphis after school shootings could have unintended consequences

PHOTO: Jahi Chikwendiu/The Washington Post/Getty Images

Tennessee’s largest district, Shelby County Schools, is slated to add more school resource officers under the proposed budget for next school year.

Superintendent Dorsey Hopson earmarked $2 million to hire 30 school resource officers in addition to the 98 already in some of its 150-plus schools. The school board is scheduled to vote on the budget Tuesday.

But an increase in law enforcement officers could have unintended consequences.

A new state law that bans local governments from refusing to cooperate with federal immigration officials could put school resource officers in an awkward position.

Tennessee Education Commissioner Candice McQueen recently reminded school personnel they are not obligated to release student information regarding immigration status. School resource officers employed by police or sheriff’s departments, however, do not answer to school districts. Shelby County Schools is still reviewing the law, but school board members have previously gone on the record emphasizing their commitment to protecting undocumented students.

“Right now we are just trying to get a better understanding of the law and the impact that it may have,” said Natalia Powers, a district spokeswoman.

Also, incidents of excessive force and racial bias toward black students have cropped up in recent years. Two white Memphis officers were fired in 2013 after hitting a black student and wrestling her to the ground because she was “yelling and cussing” on school grounds. And mothers of four elementary school students recently filed a lawsuit against a Murfreesboro officer who arrested them at school in 2016 for failing to break up a fight that occurred off-campus.

Just how common those incidents are in Memphis is unclear. In response to Chalkbeat’s query for the number and type of complaints in the last two school years, Shelby County Schools said it “does not have any documents responsive to this request.”

Currently, 38 school resource officers are sheriff’s deputies, and the rest are security officers hired by Shelby County Schools. The officers respond and work to prevent criminal activity in all high schools and middle schools, Hopson said. The 30 additional officers would augment staffing at some schools and for the first time, branch out to some elementary schools. Hopson said those decisions will be based on crime rates in surrounding neighborhoods and school incidents.

Hopson’s initial recommendation for more school resource officers was in response to the school shooting in Parkland, Florida, that killed 17 people and sparked a wave of student activism on school safety, including in Memphis.

Gov. Bill Haslam’s recent $30 million budget boost would allow school districts across Tennessee to hire more law enforcement officers or improve building security. Measures to arm some teachers with guns or outlaw certain types of guns have fallen flat.


For more on the role and history of school resource officers in Tennessee, read our five things to know.


Sheriff’s deputies and district security officers meet weekly, said Capt. Dallas Lavergne of the Shelby County Sheriff’s Office. When the Memphis Police Department pulled their officers out of school buildings following the merger of city and county school systems, the county Sheriff’s Office replaced them with deputies.

All deputy recruits go through school resource officer training, and those who are assigned to schools get additional annual training. In a 2013 review of police academies across the nation, Tennessee was cited as the only state that had specific training for officers deployed to schools.