March 22, 2024
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Well-Rounded Educational Experiences: Supporting Early Learners and Mental Health
Dear Team DPS,

Denver Public Schools (DPS) is committed to providing well-rounded educational experiences for all of our students across our district. Today, I am sharing an update with our DPS community to provide clarity on two important elements of the DPS experience: Early Childhood Education (ECE) and Mental Health.

ECE and SchoolChoice
Communications have been sent to families regarding the SchoolChoice process. Families who participated in Round 1 received notification of their school matches this week. Please log into the application to see your student’s school match. Applications for SchoolChoice Round 2 will open on April 10 at 10 a.m.

At DPS, we believe that every student deserves access to high-quality education that fosters their growth, development and love for learning. If you have an ECE student for the 2024-25 school year and have not already submitted your ECE application, we encourage you to do so in Round 2. We have available seats ready to serve families across every region of our district! 

If your family completes an ECE-4 application during SchoolChoice, your next step is to complete the Universal Preschool Colorado (UPK) application to receive funding through the Colorado Department of Early Childhood (CDEC). If your family completes an ECE-3 application, no action is currently required. The state of Colorado’s UPK pre-registration application for the 2024-25 school year is currently open and closes on Thursday, March 28. For more information about the UPK process, please review this update.

By enrolling your child, you are providing them with a supportive and inclusive learning environment where they can thrive alongside their peers. Our dedicated teachers and staff are committed to creating a safe and welcoming environment that encourages curiosity, creativity and social-emotional development. Research shows that attendance in ECE positively impacts students’ success in elementary school and beyond.

Continuing to Prioritize Mental Health
School districts nationwide benefited from pandemic-era COVID-relief funds, otherwise known as ESSER funds, which end September 2024. Districts across the country, DPS included, have worked diligently to determine how to navigate the funding gaps created as ESSER concludes. One of the ways DPS prioritized ESSER dollars was through investments in social-emotional and mental health support for our students. 

Long before COVID-19, DPS prioritized The Whole Child, including social emotional and mental health services. We will continue to do so. While difficult decisions need to be made that impact the Department of Mental Health, the team has developed a robust plan to help our school system support students with mental health needs in response to the end of funding for certain mental health programs. 

The team assessed the challenges and unmet needs that the ESSER funding cliff affects and determined what structures will support the roles and functions of the previously iterated mental health programming.

The Department of Mental Health will utilize the remaining funds designated to support the substance prevention and intervention training program to build the skill and capacity of the larger School Social Work and School Psychology team. This will allow all school social workers and school psychologists to be able to provide substance prevention and intervention services, as well as Bounce Back and Cognitive Behavior Intervention for Trauma in Schools (CBITS), which are both trauma-specific interventions.

In addition to the remaining funding, DPS has designated additional funds to support mental health trainers in trauma-specific school-based interventions, as well as a team of centrally-assigned mental health providers. This design builds the clinical and therapeutic knowledge, skills and practices of all building-based school psychologists and social workers.

DPS is dedicated to the well-rounded experiences of our students. We will continue to work in partnership to provide clear, accurate updates to our DPS community so that Every Learner Thrives. I look forward to continuing this work through the end of the school year and beyond, and wish our DPS community a happy and restful spring break!

In collaboration,

Dr. Alex Marrero
Tasty Food Spring Break Schedule
Keep your child fueled and happy with Tasty Food over spring break! They will be offering free meals and snacks to Denver’s youth (ages 5-18) with delicious and nutritious options. Stop into one of their 20 locations across the Denver metro and stock up on goods for your staycation or travels! Please note: All locations will be closed on Monday, March 25, in observance of Caesar Chavez Day. 
The ‘Your Voice/Tu Voz’ Student Survey Closes at 11:59 p.m. Tonight
The DPS “Your Voice/Tu Voz” Student Survey closes this evening at 11:59 p.m. If your child hasn’t yet completed their survey, there’s still time! Students in third- through 12th grade should have received an email from Superintendent Dr. Alex Marrero with their unique link to complete the survey on Monday, March 18.
Black Voices in Color Podcast: All Things Montbello
In this episode of the Black Voices in Color student podcast, students from Montbello High School take over the set! They dive deep into the history, legacy, traditions and future of Montbello with the help of special guests Principal Neisa Lynch and Frank Roman, Montbello teacher and alum. Watch the full episode or listen on your favorite podcast platform by searching for "The Denver Public Schools Podcast."
DPS’ Murugan Palani Wins CWCC 2024 Chamber Champion Award!
Murugan Palani, DPS Director of the Office of Business Diversity, and his team oversee bond construction projects and help find the right contractors for the job. Together they work to create a supplier base that is reflective of our student population in its diversity, and ensure women and minority-owned small business enterprises (MWBE) have a fair and equal opportunity to be a part of bond-funded work. Murugan has served as a board member for the Colorado Women’s Chamber of Commerce. He was awarded the 2024 Chamber Campion Award for his impact in activating economic equity in the workforce.

Watch this special recap of the State of Women in Business Breakfast to find out more about Murugan and DPS’ impact.
Join Us for Family Wellness Fest
The Family Wellness Fest event series is brought to you by the DPS Departments of Family and Community Engagement (FACE) and Trauma-Informed & Restorative Practices, as well as community partner, Kaiser Permanente.

Enjoy free childcare, food and giveaways! Learn from DPS experts about restorative practices, substance abuse, social-emotional learning and bullying prevention. 

  • Saturday, April 6 from 1-4 p.m. at Montbello Middle School
  • April 13 from 1-4 p.m. at Lake Middle School
  • April 27 from 1-4 p.m. at George Washington High School

For more information, check out these flyers. Call 720-423-3054 or email for assistance.
Willow Elementary Spanish Teacher Wins 2024 CCFLT World Language Teacher of the Year
Please join us in celebrating Karen Casner, Willow Elementary Spanish Teacher, for winning the 2024 CCFLT World Language Teacher of the Year award earlier this semester! Karen was awarded this prestigious honor at the Spring Conference of Foreign Language Teachers for her excellence in teaching and mentorship of other teachers in her role as District Regional Team Specialist for World Languages. Additionally, the award recognizes her service to the languages community as the Colorado representative to the National Leadership Initiative for Learning Languages (LILL). 

In 2025, Karen will compete in the Southwest Conference on Language Teaching (SWCOLT) for the Regional World Language Teacher of the Year award. Congratulations on this incredible achievement, Karen!
DPS Discount Alert: Denver Nuggets Game
Cheer on the Denver Nuggets as they defend their NBA Championship and take on the Memphis Grizzlies on Monday, March 25 at 7 p.m. at Ball Arena. $5 from each ticket sold will be donated back to the DPS Foundation!

Visit the DPS Foundation website for more information on these discounts and other special offers.
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