Returning students have probably noticed a little more hustle and bustle in the halls at Niwot Elementary. With all bond construction now complete and a boomlet in enrollment, the 2019-20 school year is shaping up to be a busy one, and principal Nancy Pitz said that students and staff have hit the ground running.
“It’s been a super smooth transition, and it’s great to be back,” she said. “Teachers are working hard, and students are getting ready to learn.”
Thanks to the growth, Niwot Elementary added a fair amount of new staff to its roster this year. At the close of the 2018 school year, enrollment was at 402 students and projections showed 398 incoming for the start of the 2019 school year. Current enrollment has far surpassed that, however, and sits at 420.
“That’s where we were a few years ago, so it’s great to see that coming back,” Pitz said. “It’s also great to see that larger percentages are residents. Half of our school is open enrolled, but it’s nice that even our residents are increasing.”
With this growth comes the addition of new positions and programs across the school. Niwot Elementary added a second autism center-based classroom, one of just a handful in the entire district. Each class has nine students and Kelcy Penate has come on board to teach the second class. New para educators have also come on board to assist.
NES’ gifted and talented program, which serves nearly 30 percent of students at the school, is also seeing some new faces, with new teacher Amanda Wise now on board. Principal Nancy Pitz explains, “We’re the only school in the district that has a full time GT teacher at the elementary level.” The previous GT teacher, Barb VanWInkle, retired at the end of the 2018-19 school year.
Rounding out the list of new teachers is Renee Roush, a 3rd grade teacher added because of the increased enrollment. In addition to these changes, internal staff members have been reassigned. Melissa Calkins replaced kindergarten teacher Bre Douthitt, who moved out of state. Caulkins previously taught first grade and ESL, however, a full time ESL teacher, Kimmie Coven, was placed in this new position.
The last of the bond work was recently completed, including new safety measures at the front entry. The double vestibule and buzz-in system is just another step towards ensuring students’ health and safety. “It’s (safety) is the most important thing. We are always looking at where we can improve and what we need to do differently. We’re lucky because we have an SRO… But we are always evaluating it.”
NES staff, students, and parents are already gearing up for their major fundraiser for the year, the Niwot Trot, a 5K run and walk through town that ends in Whistle Stop Park. This year’s event is slated for Sunday, Sept. 22, and Pitz is already in training.
“It’s just such a fun way to bring the community together and our students together, and it promotes that healthy and active lifestyle that we love to talk about so much at Niwot Elementary.”
Pitz loves to welcome these new students at the beginning of each year, and embrace their creative pursuits, “That’s just what we’re about here. When we hear a student say they want to make this happen, we do it, and we find a way. Let’s figure it out.”
Teachers and staff at Niwot Elementary place a large focus on exercise and health. Students are encouraged to get up at their desks, stretch, and move around. The Trot is right around the corner and always draws a fun crowd. It’s official - school’s back in session.