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Niwot Elementary looks forward to milestone year


August 20, 2016

Photo by Aurelia Pollard Niwot Elementary School has been working on a new playground for its preschool students, which is scheduled to be completed by the first day of school on August 16.

Niwot Elementary School (NES) has a lot to celebrate this year as it heads into its 50th anniversary.

Principal Nancy Pitz, who is beginning her fourth year at NES and 21st year in education, said the traditions of NES have stayed alive throughout the years and she’s looking forward to celebrating the school.

“There’s so much tradition with this community,” Pitz stated. “We’ve worked hard to keep those traditions, and at the same time growing and continuing to improve.”

Pitz credits the community, parents and staff of the school for caring for the children and making sure they have the best education possible.

“This community is amazing,” Pitz said. “There’s so much support with the parents and our community partners. And our staff here is just an amazing group of people. It’s really about the kids and we keep going back to what’s best for the kids.”

One big addition the school made for this year is adding a third class of full-day kindergarten. Traditionally, the elementary school has just had two full-day classes of kindergarten with a half-day class. But the many requests for early education led NES to add another class.

“From the requests and demands for full-day kindergarten, we were able to add a third full-day [class],” Pitz explained. “It’s neat because it shows the importance our families are putting on early education.”

The school will now have a total of 75 kindergarteners, with 72 of them in the full-day program. The students in the half day program will be embedded into the full-day program until they go home.

Niwot Elementary’s student population is now at 450 students from kindergarten through fifth grade, with an extra 50-plus students in preschool. Pitz said every elementary school in the St. Vrain Valley School District now has a preschool program, showing the importance families are placing on early education.

“The emphasis that’s on early education now has made huge strides,” Pitz said. “We’re one of the first districts to have a preschool in all the [elementary] schools. It goes back to research again. Research says the sooner we can get these kids started, the larger gains we’ll see.”

NES has been working on a new playground for the preschool students, which will be completed by the first day of school. Pitz said the playground was much needed and came together with the support of the community and school district.

The elementary school also began adding more healthy habits into its school day, including movement breaks during class, the 100 Mile Club and the new Trip Tracker program. The Trip Tracker Program, which was implemented last year, is through a partnership with Boulder County and encourages families to be more active.

“Last year we added a lot around healthy lifestyles,” Pitz said. “We added the Trip Tracker Program last year, and that’s encouraging our families to bike and walk. They earn dollar bucks to spend in the community.”

Through the new health movement, which is district-wide, Pitz said she and other teachers have seen the benefits of having the students be more active throughout the day.

“Research just says that if you get the kids up and moving, that they’re going to perform,” she said.

Niwot Elementary also focuses on getting the parents involved in their child’s education, both in and out of the classroom. Pitz said the involved community helps out with a wide array of activities from the annual sock hop and talent show, to movie nights and instructional activities inside the classroom.

Last year the school started a new program called Watch Dogs (Dads of great students), in which over 120 dads came to the school to help out in different classrooms throughout the day.

“We have a dad a day, and they’re working instructionally with kids,” Pitz explained of the program. “They go to different grade levels throughout the day [and] they help before with traffic—they’re just involved with our day.”

The goal of the program was to get more dads involved in the school, because even though the school sees up to 25 volunteers each day, “traditionally, more of the moms come in, so we’re just getting the dads to come in.” Pitz said the successful program will be continued this year as well.

One new teacher is joining the team at Niwot Elementary this year, Kara Danielson, who will be teaching fourth grade. Danielson was a long-term substitute last year and was already familiar with the school when a teaching position opened.

“She actually comes to us with eight years of teaching experience,” Pitz said of Danielson, “so just an excellent addition to the team and the school.”

The school of differentiation has a “continued focus on meeting the needs of all students academically, socially, emotionally, and really honing in on the different learning styles.”

Pitz explained classrooms incorporate leveled grouping based on academics, interests or subjects to cater to how each student learns best. Teachers strive to get to know the needs of each child, which can often drive their instruction.

“With true differentiation it’s not always around just academic levels,” Pitz explained. “We’re trying to bring in those other aspects as well. It looks different at different levels [and] different subjects, but just hitting the needs of all students.”

With first through fifth-grade students returning to school on Tuesday, August 16 and kindergarteners on Thursday, August 18, Pitz is looking forward to the new activities and opportunities the new school year will bring in its 50th year.

“Niwot is such an amazing school and I’m very proud of it,” Pitz said. “It will be neat to see what has, over the 50 years, led up to it.”


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