Hundreds gather to protest possible closure of Sable Elementary School | Education

Aurora native Jackie Pasillas dreamed of returning to Aurora Public Schools as an educator ever since she chose the path of becoming a teacher.

In 2019, Pasillas was overjoyed when she learned she was being hired as a third grade teacher as Sable Elementary School, where she used to learn, play and built her foundation for herself, she said.

So when she learned Sable might close as a result of declining enrollment, she said she felt blindsided.

“I walked these streets when I was little and went through some of the challenges they have so it really hurts,” Pasillas said. “These students deserve to keep their neighborhood school.”

On Saturday, Pasillas and around 200 other parents, students, teachers and community members gathered on the east side of Cottonwood Park with signs reading “Save Sable” and “Protect Our Schools” to protest the potential closure.

APS Superintendent Rico Munn recommended to the conclusion board of education in March to close Sable and Paris Elementary Schools. At that meeting, the seven-member board voted against the closures in a 4-3 vote.

The recommendations were made as the district continues laying the framework for its long-term plan, Blueprint APS, to address the challenges of declining enrollment.

Since the 2017-2018 academic year, Paris Elementary’s enrollment has declined nearly 25% and is expected to drop even further next year. Sable Elementary has seen a similar drop as enrollment has declined 26% since 2017-2018, according to the superintendent’s presentation.

Adam Woods, a parent of a fifth and second grader, was among the crowd on Saturday and said he showed up to support the school and his community. He added it’d be “disheartening” if the board voted in favor of closures on Tuesday since it would damage his community.

“We have a really tight knit community and we all work together,” Woods said. “Like I take the neighbors’ kids to schools and stuff like that so we all rely on each other. If they are close to school, this will cause a bunch of headaches for many families.”

Many others echoed Woods sentiment, while others such as Leslie Burton, the school’s culturally and linguistically diverse education leader, said there hasn’t been enough transparency and community members haven’t had a fair opportunity to voice their opinions.

“We are gathered here today because the process has not been transparent and not had your input,” Burton said. “This was a shock to the Sable community and our community deserves to be heard.”

District officials on Friday told The Denver Gazette that there had been several opportunities for community members to voice their opinions through in-person and virtual town halls.

Board of Education Director Tramaine Duncan said Saturday’s event showed him that despite the efforts by the district to seek out community input regarding closures, enough wasn’t done.

Duncan was joined at Saturday ‘event by fellow board members Michael Carter, Anne Keke and Vicki Reinhard.

Superintendent Munn is scheduled to present a revised version of recommendations for the judged Region 1 on Tuesday. This will be followed by a vote that could close Sable and Paris Elementary Schools.

But come Wednesday, Pasillas hopes her school’s community can breathe a sigh of relief. But until then she says they will continue to fight for their community.

“Our community has continued to say keep our school open,” Pasillas said. “We will continue to speak because Sable is a staple in our neighborhood.”

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