East High and Manual High: Preview proposal to combine schools' 9th grades

East High School is hosting a meeting on Tuesday, May 27 to discuss the possibility of a new partnership between East High, considered one of the best high schools in Denver Public Schools, and Manual High, which has struggled for years to maintain enrollment and improve its academic performance.

The partnership, as described in a pair of letters sent to the East and Manual communities (and on view below), would involve combining the ninth-grade classes of the two schools into a single ninth-grade academy run by East and housed at Manual. But as school officials emphasize in the letters, no final decisions have been made.

Under the proposal, Manual would become "a rigorous, 10th - 12th grade Science, Technology, Engineering and Math (STEM) high school open to students from both the East and Manual boundaries," according to a letter from East principal Andy Mendelsberg.

East would remain a comprehensive high school serving tenth- through twelfth-grade students from both communities, Mendelsberg writes. Students at both schools would have the opportunity to take classes at either campus, he adds.

The proposal is reminiscent of a partnership between the two schools that existed in the 1980s and 1990s, Mendelsberg and DPS superintendent Tom Boasberg write in the letters. The old partnership, called the East-Manual Complex, allowed students on each campus to take classes on the other, they write.

The new partnership, Mendelsberg writes, was proposed by himself and two other principals, including Manual principal Don Roy. Part of the reason is that Manual's enrollment is decreasing; Boasberg writes that fewer than 75 ninth-grade students are planning to enroll at Manual this coming fall.

"If Manual's enrollment continues to decline, there will be fewer academic, enrichment and athletic opportunities for students at Manual," Boasberg writes. "Those opportunities are critical to preparing students for success in college and a career."

The Manual community has been meeting over the past four months about how best to address the school's issues, Boasberg writes. He adds that he understands the "deep concerns and frustrations" expressed by Manual families about "the amount of change and transition at Manual over the last two decades and our failure to ensure that Manual offers a consistently high-quality education for all Manual students." Manual was closed in 2006 and later reopened, and has since gone through several leadership changes.

Both Boasberg and Mendelsberg say no decisions have been made yet -- and Mendelsberg writes that it will be at least a year before any are. Current East students, as well as seventh- and eighth-graders in the East boundary, will not be affected by any of the proposals being discussed, Mendelsberg writes.

He also emphasizes that the current proposal is "only one option." He encourages the community to attend the meeting on May 27 to express their opinions and offer suggestions. The meeting will be held at East High at 6 p.m.

Read the letters below.

Letter to East Community by Andy Mendelsberg

Letter to Manual Community by Tom Boasberg

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

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