After dropping their children off at school for the day, about a dozen parents from schools across the area gathered to discuss what their kids are learning every day, the future of the district and …
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Jeffco Public Schools’s Coffee Talks take place roughly once a month, allowing residents to learn more about the district from the Jeffco school board members and superintendent.
To learn more about future Coffee Talks, visit jeffcopublicschools.org/about/superintendent/coffee_talks
After dropping their children off at school for the day, about a dozen parents from schools across the area gathered to discuss what their kids are learning every day, the future of the district and potential improvements for the coming years.
The discussion, which took place Dec. 4 at Panera Bread at 7739 Wadsworth Blvd., gave residents a chance to ask questions of Superintendent Jason Glass and school board member Brad Rupert. Rupert represents District 1, which encompasses the eastern portion of Arvada and parts of Westminster.
Throughout the conversation, Glass and Rupert offered several insights into several potential changes coming to the school district.
One such change might see the county attempt to implement a new program that would cover tuition for students in preschool, or early childhood education. Glass pointed to the Denver Preschool Program, approved by Denver voters in 2006, through which Denver funds preschoolers’ tuition through a 0.15% sales tax.
He suggested Jefferson County might consider a similar model. It may also make more grants available for early childhood facilities and organize preschooling at the district level.
“We’ve been working on what a system for early childhood in Jeffco might look like,” he said. But as for that system and any tuition programs, “we’re several years away from making that a reality.”
Glass also explained plans to further differentiate elementary, middle and high schools from one another. Jeffco is working to help “all of our schools develop an identity or niche,” he said.
At many schools, the process is already underway, he said. For instance, in Wheat Ridge, the Peak Expeditionary School at Pennington changed its name from Pennington Elementary in fall 2018 and adopted the expeditionary learning model. The model emphasizes demonstration of knowledge in the community, as opposed to only the classroom.
Jeffco chose to help the school develop a niche because its enrollment was dwindling, Glass said. He added that since the change, enrollment has increased by about 80 students.
In the future, the district hopes to help other schools stabilize their enrollment by forming identities, such as by becoming project-based learning schools or career and technical education schools, he said.
To help parents learn more about what different schools have to offer, parent Lisa Cook requested that more information be posted to the district’s enrollment site, EnrollJeffco.
While test scores are fairly easy to access, she said, she would like to see survey results such as those from the yearly Make Your Voice Heard Survey, which asks students questions such as how engaged they feel in class.
Glass and Rupert agreed, saying the district is considering adding other indicators of success, including teacher turnover rate or measures associated with students’ workforce readiness.
The conversation turned to measures the district has already taken to improve the student experience, particularly through suicide prevention efforts.
Glass said the issue is particularly pressing — since August, the district has received more than 2,000 reports from students saying they or a friend is experiencing suicidal ideation, he said.
But the alarming number doesn’t simply reflect a rise in students having suicidal thoughts, he said; in recent years, Jeffco has established “much better mechanisms allowing people to report,” he said.
It has also “made a big investment in social-emotional learning (SEL),” with a half-time or full-time SEL specialist available at every school.
Some schools have also implemented a district-approved SEL curriculum, Rupert said.
Parent Brenda Bowers encouraged Rupert and Glass to explore adding those curriculum in every Jeffco school. She recommended the Lifelines Curriculum, which emphasizes that students go to an adult if a friend opens up about suicidal thoughts, she said.
Rupert said the district continues to explore options to put SEL into the curriculum. The district’s goal, he said, is to “give children a common vocabulary and tools to deal with the stresses that come up.”
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