Four months from starting the long est school year of any other Denver Public School, Manual High School leaders are holding a meeting Monday to talk to the media and community about the school's latest reforms.
"Organizations that are focused on being their best are not always changing, they are, however, constantly improving," said Vernon Jones, Manual's director of engagement. "We have looked at the data and the research, and we are intentionally and innovatively using both to drive our continued improvement. We definitely know that we must continue to improve. We aren't where we want to be."
Manual students will start their 210- day school year July 9 with new funding and new partners.
In the past week, the school announced two $200,000 gifts, one each from the Anschutz Foundation and the Youth Engagement Zone.
The funding from Anschutz will be used to purchase equipment to support additional on-site health and nutrition YMCA classes for students and the community.
The YEZ funding will help create additional community-led classes at the school, while another part will support the plans for experiential learning.
In that part of the plans, students will spend 25 days out of the year off-campus in what Manual is calling "experiential learning experiences." Currently, there are 12 excursions planned for the year.
Sophomores will take a bus tour to Little Rock, Ark., and to Memphis following a course on the civil-rights movement.
Ninth-graders will collaborate with youth from the Pine Ridge Native American Reservation to learn about storytelling.
Other students will tour local history and government centers in the metro area.
"Their contribution will go toward our learning excursions that provide opportunities for T-Bolts (students) to not only live what they learn, but also become advocates and activists around issues that arise out of their preparation for and participation in the excursion," said Becky Martinez, director of the school's experiential learning program.
Manual also has applied for funds from DPS through funding announced for a longer school-day pilot at select schools.
Manual was one of about 15 schools to apply for a chunk of the funding, but winners have not been announced. Manual's plans will continue regardless of the outcome.
The last time the school went through major change was in 2006 when low performance after years of reforms ended in worse results and prompted closure of the school for a year. The school was reopened in 2007 and was later one of the district's first schools to earn innovation status — or autonomy for school finances and to waive some union rules and district services.
In the fall of 2011, the school got a new leader, Brian Dale, who came in with a plan to grow the high school into a sixth-through-12th-grade school as a way to increase enrollment and to start working with students earlier to bring them to grade level.
DPS has postponed the plans for the addition of the middle school, but Manual leaders said they continue to work on the plans and still hope to open the new grades in the fall of 2013.
The spirit of the school, leaders say, has remained strong amid all the changes.
"We will continue to improve, but we will always be Manual," Jones said.
Yesenia Robles: 303-954-1372 or firstname.lastname@example.org