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Denver’s HBCU-style Robert F. Smith STEAM Academy to maneuver to a brand new constructing


To supply house for it to develop, Denver’s HBCU-style highschool will transfer subsequent 12 months from a transformed workplace constructing to a former elementary college in northeast Denver that district leaders mentioned has facilities, corresponding to a full kitchen, that its present house lacks.

The Denver college board unanimously accredited relocating the Robert F. Smith STEAM Academy to the previous Barrett Elementary constructing Thursday evening. A program for college kids with disabilities now positioned at Barrett will transfer to a unique location, district officers mentioned.

Vice President Auon’tai Anderson mentioned he voted sure reluctantly. He mentioned he struggled with shifting Smith STEAM out of the far northeast Denver neighborhood the place it was based.

“I used to be able immediately to not even need to attend this board assembly as a result of I didn’t need to take the burden of this determination as a result of I need to worth what the unique plan was,” Anderson mentioned. “For me that is now centering on, I don’t see a Plan B.”

Modeled on traditionally Black faculties and universities, Smith STEAM opened in fall 2021 in a transformed workplace constructing. The constructing was already occupied by one other college, Montbello Profession and Technical Excessive, and the position was presupposed to be short-term. The district promised to search out Smith STEAM a everlasting location inside two years.

This fall, Superintendent Alex Marrero mentioned that wasn’t attainable. As an alternative, he and his workers really useful closing Montbello Profession and Technical Excessive, often known as MCT, to make room for Smith STEAM. After each colleges pushed again, Marrero scrapped his advice.

However Smith STEAM and MCT can’t proceed to share the constructing. Smith STEAM has about 135 ninth- and tenth-graders this 12 months, and plans so as to add eleventh and twelfth grades over the subsequent two years. There’s not sufficient room on the present location to do this.

What’s extra, Smith STEAM doesn’t need to keep there. The college’s founders, together with college students and fogeys, have mentioned the constructing doesn’t meet their wants. Its hallways are slim, a few of its school rooms are small, and it doesn’t have a full kitchen, an auditorium, a competition-sized gymnasium, or outside athletic fields.

“The constructing we’re in shouldn’t be a college,” sophomore Jessie Matthews advised the varsity board in October. “The ninth grade biology lessons have to come back into the tenth grade chemistry room to do experiments as a result of the biology class is the scale of a jail cell.”

The plan to maneuver Smith STEAM to the previous Barrett Elementary constructing in close to northeast Denver was launched at Thursday’s board assembly with out an evidence from Marrero. 

Anderson requested Marrero a collection of questions, together with whether or not the Smith STEAM principal was in favor of the transfer, whether or not the constructing could be retrofitted for prime schoolers, and whether or not there was any empty land within the far northeast to construct a brand new college as a substitute.

Marrero answered the primary two questions with a sure and the final query with a no.

“There isn’t any land,” he mentioned.

Smith STEAM Principal Shakira Abney-Knowledge didn’t reply to a request for remark.

Marrero mentioned the board wanted to vote Thursday so the district may publish Smith STEAM’s new handle in a information geared toward serving to households select colleges. The window for college kids to use for colleges for subsequent college 12 months opens in mid-January.

The primary 12 months Smith STEAM was included within the information, its handle was listed incorrectly. Denver colleges are funded per pupil. The error affected Smith STEAM’s enrollment and led the district to conform to fund the varsity as if it had been absolutely enrolled.

Melanie Asmar is a senior reporter for Chalkbeat Colorado, masking Denver Public Faculties. Contact Melanie at masmar@chalkbeat.org.



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