Jeffco school enrollment opens for 2020-2021

Parents encouraged to explore all options through EnrollJeffco

Casey Van Divier
cvandivier@coloradocommunitymedia.com
Posted 12/9/19

With 30 to 45 minutes of nightly homework covering almost every subject, sixth grader Oscar Young often finds himself spending more time doing homework after school than his middle- and …

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Jeffco school enrollment opens for 2020-2021

Parents encouraged to explore all options through EnrollJeffco

Posted

With 30 to 45 minutes of nightly homework covering almost every subject, sixth grader Oscar Young often finds himself spending more time doing homework after school than his middle- and high-school-aged sisters, he said.

As is the case with most 11-year-olds, homework isn't necessarily his favorite activity, said Young who attends Dennison Elementary in Lakewood; but, "I think it's good because we're getting a great education," he said. "We're learning to take care of things."

The level of homework assigned at Dennison is a product of the school's status as an option school, principal Pam Yoder said.

Dennison represents just one option for students and parents in Jefferson County, each with differing schedules, homework levels, available classes and teaching styles to offer multiple educational experiences.

Since Young's mother, Annie, sent her first child to Dennison starting in 2010, the option school's dedication to encouraging student self-esteem has been the perfect fit for her family, she said.

"This model is the only model like it in the area," she said. "It meets our needs, while another school might meet the needs of someone else."

This month, the district is reminding Jeffco families that there's no shortage of schools to choose from, said community superintendent Matt Walsh, with 2020-2021 enrollment now open.

Through Jan. 15, Jeffco students can apply to any district school for the coming school year. The district's digital enrollment tool EnrollJeffco lists neighborhood schools, option schools, neighborhood schools with option programs, charter schools and alternative schools accepting students in 2020.

Parents should use the tool to enroll any new Jeffco student or continuing student who will be switching schools in the coming year, Walsh said.

The district rolled out EnrollJeffco in 2018 to make enrollment equally accessible for all families, he said.

“In the past, it was filling out multiple schools' applications and each school having different cutoff dates — parents were at the mercy of the system,” he said. “Now, shopping, finding information and applying can all be done in one particular location.”

What is a neighborhood school with option programs?

While a student's designated neighborhood school is still the first choice for most families, another school could be a better fit for some because of its unique opportunities, Walsh said.

Schools listed on EnrollJeffco as neighborhood schools with option programs offer a variety of opportunities, from International Baccalaureate (IB) classes to Gifted and Talented support, he said.

Others are project-based learning schools, such as Arvada High and Stober Elementary, with many of them following a plan laid out by education nonprofit New Tech Network.

“Every class (at Arvada High) is teaching everything through project-based learning,” assistant principal Mark Abling said, meaning that classes assess understanding by having students solve real-world problems.

For example, students in freshman-level English typically demonstrate knowledge through a yearly project that asks students to research, identify and write about a method to visit Mars, he said.

“You're doing projects to learn the aspects of subjects,” he said. “It's not just theory; it's practice.”

Arvada High further differentiates itself by asking students to select one of three pathways - Arts and Humanities, STEM or Sports Business - in the same way college students select a major.

Implemented in 2019, the pathways award students college credit and specific certifications to be used after high school. For example, those who complete “Pathways2Teaching,” a sub-pathway of Arts and Humanities, receive certification to work as a paraprofessional, or educational aide; preferential hiring in Denver Public Schools; and guaranteed admission to the University of Colorado Boulder.

What defines an option school?

Another choice for Jeffco students comes in the form of the option school — a category that can be a bit difficult to define, said Jeena Templeton, principal of the Manning School of Academics & Arts in Golden.

“There's no codified set of differences between an option school and a neighborhood school,” she said. “We're still expected to abide by certain policies, but we're kind of in between a neighborhood and a charter.”

Option school leaders work with the district to make changes here and there from the traditional Jeffco schooling model.

She listed a number of examples of such changes at Manning: The school chose its own start time, starting later than many other schools at 8:25 a.m.; it requires students to take honors-level science classes; and it caps enrollment at 675 students, allowing for a smaller community.

“Families choose Manning for the excellent work we expect of our students and because we couple that with a lot of support,” Templeton said. “As the principal, I know almost every student's name. It's a very small, positive community.”

Yet another example of this is Dennison, which is known for its choices to use textbooks and create time for teachers to plan and work together, Yoder said.

“Our current community attests to their commitment to our school; 98% of students continue throughout (sixth grade),” she said. 

For Oscar, whose mother asks him every year if he would like to stay at Dennison, the answer is always yes, Annie said.

"It's a high-performing school, and some parents come here fo that," she said. "But the magic that happens here has nothing to do with scores; it's a foundation that prevents students from creating limiting beliefs for themselves. That's why we've stayed."

Finding the right fit

Those interested in exploring any type of school can access parent information night dates on EnrollJeffco, Walsh said.

He also encouraged parents to reach out to principals with any questions. Often, principals will not only give information about their school, but refer parents to other schools that might be a good fit for their student, he said.

“They don't approach it as `I need to sell you my school;' they're asking what it is your student is looking for,” he said. “If a parent reaches out, we want to know what they need, and we're able to help them. It's a really big district that gets very small, very quickly.

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