The Aurora school district will ask the state to approve a plan to improve two of its struggling schools this spring, a year before the state could otherwise intercede.

On a split vote Tuesday night, the Aurora school board approved Superintendent Rico Munn’s preemptive plan for Gateway High School and North Middle School.

The board’s long discussion on the plan centered around the merits of the two companies that the administration proposes to hire to work with each school, and the process the administration used to vet the possible partners.

One board member, Kayla Armstrong-Romero, felt that she, community members, and school staff should have been allowed to review the candidates for management partner before the proposal was presented to the board. She was the sole vote against the plan for Gateway. Board president Marques Ivey joined her in voting against the plan for North.

Other board members said the process had been transparent and appropriate.

If the state approves Aurora’s plan, the district will hire the two external managers, MGT Consulting for North, and Communities in Schools for Gateway, giving them full authority over portions of school operations such as curriculum, teacher training, and mental health assistance.

Without the early plan, the two schools would have one more year to show improvement. If they fail, by law the State Board of Education then would have to order one of four strategies to improve, which could include closing a school or asking a charter school to take it over.

Aurora Public Schools will be the first district in Colorado to take advantage of a new state provision allowing schools and districts to request early state approval of a district-devised plan to improve. The benefit, as district officials told the school board, is stability and some say in the decision. District officials then can plan for state action, rather than having it imposed on them.