Beginning in October, the Mancos School District RE-6 will follow a new rubric when it conducts its school board meetings.
As part of its new strategic plan, the district will focus on one or two of 11 outlined objectives, and specific corresponding rubrics, Superintendent Todd Cordrey said.
Examples of objectives include: “Our district will use Project Based Learning to connect our students with professionals, and place students into our local businesses/organizations to provide authentic learning experiences” and “Mancos School District will upgrade its website for easier access and usability.”
“We're far and above ahead of almost all school districts,” Cordrey said.
He said the new model will help the district to track performance over the course of the school year.
“That's fundamentally different than a board that’s reactionary, and focused on the passion of the minute,” he said. “This is a plan that covers the year. It’s a plan built through our strategic plan with with hundreds and thousands of hours of input from staff and community members, and we're following it with fidelity.”
The new strategic plan is updated from the last version, created in 2010, said Edward Whritner, director of Project Based Learning.
“There aren’t many school districts with a set way to measure their growth in progress and successes in areas for growth with their strategic plans,” he said. “School board meetings can too often become these sort of centers of drama, and the fire of the week that’s broken out.”
Currently, no students in the district have COVID-19, said district nurse Sharon Martinez. The district hasn’t seen a new case in the past four weeks, she said, and no students are quarantined.
“We’re blessed,” she said. “I just hope it stays.”
About 20% of students wear masks, she said, and parents are expected to monitor their students.
“The parents are great,” she said. “I really like working with the parents. If they're not sure they call because they don't want to be the one that causes the spread in the school.”
If children display symptoms like a cough, she said she asks them to wear a mask.
As of Wednesday, the school began implementing the statewide Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment’s voluntary virus testing program, she said.
Each Monday, a team of three will administer the tests, Cordrey said.
Martinez is writing a weekly newsletter to share coronavirus updates and other district health news, she said.
“We’re doing super with the COVID challenge, I feel really good with the work we’re doing here, and we're continuing to add layers of support and intervention,” Cordrey said.
Cordrey said the district was working on offering counseling to “students and staff that that feel any sort of anxiety around COVID.”
“It's a challenging situation to be a teacher and to be teaching in front of maybe 100- 150 kids that haven't been vaccinated,” he said.
The district is wrapping up its suicide prevention efforts in line with National Suicide Prevention month in September, which included a fundraiser with the sale of $1 paper blue hearts and suicide prevention training sessions, both in school for students and outside, available to parents and the larger Mancos community.
“If people feel like they know what to do, then they’re more likely to do something,” said Shanda Stiles, RE-6 behavior analyst. “If we can bring community and school people all together, then we feel better.”
Additionally, students are given surveys each September to gauge whether they may be depressed or if they have ever considered suicide, said Mancos Secondary School Counselor Alanda Martin.
“We see a lot of kids through the screening that we wouldn't have reached out to, typically,” she said. “And it’s an easy way for kids to come forward, because it’s basically anonymous, except for that only I see see it.”
The school district, classified as a trauma-informed school, encourages students to find a trusted adult within the school community, and regularly discuss emotions they may be feeling, she said.
There are “calm corners” in each classroom where students can “regulate,” and elementary school teachers identify students each week who they think may need check-ins, Stiles added.
The Mancos schools are enjoying new campus updates after the district’s recent $25 million makeover. The culmination of those efforts was celebrated Aug. 13 with a cornerstone and ribbon-cutting ceremony outside the new performing arts center.
In addition to the new performing arts center and gymnasium, the cafeteria became connected to the elementary school, a bus loop was installed in front of the school to increase safety, the elementary and preschool each gained a new playground and the football field was revamped.
A team of nine third, fourth and fifth graders worked directly with architects to help design the elementary school playground, Mancos Elementary School Principal Cathy Epps said.
“They actually are the ones that put in the feedback and really designed it,” she said.
Moving forward with project-based learning
The district is in its third year of a project-based learning model, and is focusing on implementing critique and revision techniques in students that make them comfortable with peer review, Whritner said.
“It starts at the elementary grades where, ideally, by the time they’re in middle school, it’s second nature,” he said.
Students are involved in the process of deciding what curriculum to focus on, he said.
While projects that involved travel outside of school, or bringing experts in, were set back by the pandemic, projects like a partnership with Willowtail Springs will engage students outside of the classroom this year, he said.
“Our community knows what our students are doing and learning and our students —through the learning they're doing here — are contributing to the betterment of our community,” he said.
This year, more dads than ever have signed up to participate in the elementary school’s “Dads of Great Students” program, which launched in 2015, Epps said.
In the program, fathers of students volunteer to spend a school day in every classroom, broken down into 30-minute intervals.
“We rarely have male role models in school settings, especially at the elementary level,” she said.