East High and Manual High Students Won't Be Combined in Ninth-Grade Academy

Concerned community members gather outside East High School in May.
Concerned community members gather outside East High School in May.

High-achieving East High School and struggling Manual High School will not partner to create a ninth-grade academy serving students from both schools, Denver Public Schools told the communities in a pair of letters.

"We heard considerable feedback from both the Manual and East communities on this proposal, and we're no longer considering creating a combined East-Manual 9th-grade academy," East principal Andy Mendelsberg wrote in a letter to the school's families.

See also: East High and Manual High: Community Questions Proposal to Combine 9th Grades

We've put in a call to DPS to ask what specific feedback caused the district to discard the plan, and we'll update this blog post if and when we hear back.

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The proposal was suggested to East and Manual families in letters sent home last year. It called for combining the ninth-grade classes of the two schools into a single ninth-grade academy run by East and housed at Manual. Under the proposal, Manual was to become a Science, Technology, Engineering and Math (STEM) high school open to tenth-, eleventh- and twelfth-grade students, while East was to remain a comprehensive high school serving those same grades. The high schools would be open to students from both the East and Manual boundaries, and students could take classes at either campus.

In late May, East hosted a meeting to discuss the proposal. Many of the parents and community members who showed up were wary of the plan.

"Is this to save Manual?" one parent asked Mendelsberg.

"I don't see it as saving anything," he said. "I see it as giving access and opportunities."

Manual High's JROTC poses in front of the school on September 11, 2013.
Manual High's JROTC poses in front of the school on September 11, 2013.

In his recent letter to the East community, Mendelsberg said he believes "there are still opportunities for a future partnership between the Manual and East communities," but that the group tasked with discussing those opportunities wouldn't be considering "anything as extensive as the 9th-grade academy we previously discussed."

A letter to the Manual community from DPS chief of schools Susana Cordova provides more details about that school's future. Given the excitement over last spring's STEM proposal, she writes that DPS "will move forward with developing this type of programming to create a small, rigorous DPS-led neighborhood high school at Manual. We will plan for initial implementation next year." A key part of the offerings, she writes, will be "strong career and technical education opportunities in the health sciences."

Manual will also continue to search for a "long-term leader," Cordova writes. The school has a tumultuous history: Poor performance led to it being closed in 2006, and it has gone through several leadership changes since reopening in 2007. The most recent occurred when Brian Dale, who took over as principal in 2012, abruptly left the school back in January. He was replaced by DPS middle-school principal Don Roy, who will continue to serve as principal at Manual through the end of this school year.

Read the letters sent to the East and Manual communities below.

Letter to Manual Families

Letter to East Families

Follow me on Twitter @MelanieAsmar or e-mail me at melanie.asmar@westword.com

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