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Life Skills Center: DPS board votes to shutter alternative school, which vows to appeal

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This year may be the last for the Life Skills Center, a last-chance high school that Westword profiled in 2007.

Last night, the Denver Public Schools board voted to shutter the struggling alternative charter school, which had been given a second chance in 2008 after facing the same fate.

Principal Santiago Lopez says he wasn't surprised at the 4-3 vote to close the school, which has had a low graduation rate for years. However, he adds, "I was disappointed that the other board members that voted to close our school really are doing a disservice to our students. We're working with students that truly were either not in school before -- so the district never had them for a year or more -- or working with students that were directly referred to us from the schools that they're suggesting they go back to."

Lopez says Life Skills plans to appeal DPS's decision to the State Board of Education. It did the same in 2007, when DPS voted not to renew the school's charter. It reversed that decision at the urging of the state board. "It went in our favor in the past," Lopez says.

It isn't the first time DPS has shuttered a low-performing charter school, a move that Jim Griffin, the founder and president of the Colorado League of Charter Schools, says is a sign that the district is a good charter school authorizer. In the past four years, Griffin's tally shows that DPS has closed more under-performing charters than any other Colorado authorizer. That includes one of the district's first charters, P.S. 1 Charter School, which Westword profiled in 2010 shortly after the board voted to close it for poor performance.

But while closing struggling schools may be good policy, where does that leave the students? Without many options, Lopez says. "My fear is they would be on the street and it would be costing more as a community to get them services or anything they need instead of educating them to be productive members of society," he says.

More from our Education archives: "John Youngquist, East High School principal, leaves to take DPS principal development job."

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