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By Kim Glasscock

NCA welcomes area educators to 2019 annual meeting


April 27, 2019

Kim Glasscock

Principals Anthony Barela of Sunset Middle, and Nancy Pitz of Niwot Elementary spoke at the Niwot Community Association’s annual meeting on April 17.

The Niwot Community Association did one of the things it does best at its April 17 annual meeting for members – connect NCA members with the broader Niwot area community.

The group invited the principals of Niwot Elementary School, Sunset Middle School and Niwot High School to speak to meeting attendees about the academic and social achievements, strengths, school focus and infrastructure changes at each of the schools.

The presentations grew from concerns from some NCA board members about encouraging Niwot families to become involved with the Niwot community. Students enrolled in Niwot feeder schools connect both the students and their parents to the community, and a recent trend of parents enrolling their children elsewhere concerned some NCA members. Since the NCA strives to keep members informed about issues that can affect them, the group invited the principals to speak.

Each of the principals spoke about the strengths of their schools and also emphasized areas where the schools work together. For instance, all three schools worked on a project to create two classrooms for the Mwebaza Foundation. Two shipping containers were converted into classrooms and filled with donated supplies. The containers, to be used at the Mwebaza Infant Primary School, were sent on their way to Kyengera, Uganda, in December.

The shipping containers were wired for electricity and fitted for solar power by students at St. Vrain Valley School District’s Career Development Center. Sunset Middle School students drew up the construction plans for converting the containers into classrooms. Niwot High School and CDC students did most of the hands-on work, from framing walls to painting, along with the necessary advanced metal work on the upper part of the classrooms. Niwot Elementary students raised half of the funds needed for the project, and added finishing decorating touches to the container/classrooms.

“This was a project that allowed students from all our schools to work together, which was wonderful,” said Niwot High School Principal Eric Rauschkolb.

Niwot Elementary

Niwot Elementary Principal Nancy Pitz pointed to the strong sense of community, academic excellence and differentiated instruction offered at Niwot Elementary as strengths of the school. The school has 468 students this year in preschool through fifth grade. “Our preschool program is thriving,” Pitz said. “Our 60 preschoolers are embedded into our school instead of being kept separate, so that when they are ready for kindergarten those students are already comfortable with our school and it’s not so scary for them.” About 98 percent of the preschoolers stay at Niwot Elementary for kindergarten.

“Part of what enables all our students to be successful is a focus on the social and emotional well-being of our students,” Pitz said. “We work on building character traits and creating a growth mindset. We give our kids movement and focus breaks, and we have the appropriate support staff on hand for any needs. We believe that our students can’t learn if they are not socially and emotionally successful.”

The school has 28 percent of its students enrolled in the gifted and talented program, which is the highest in the district and, second highest in the state. Niwot Elementary includes a newly designed media lab which includes a discovery lab with a 3-D printer, green screen, robotics area, technology area and a makerspace for kids to learn and tinker. “We also still have books in our new space, and our librarian still reads a book to each of the classes,” Pitz added.

Pitz praised the school’s strong staff and its Parent Teacher Advisory Committee, which helps sponsor field trips and extracurricular activities, along with raising funds for extra paraprofessionals and special projects at the elementary school.

Sunset Middle School

Sunset Middle School Principal Anthony Barela praised his “student-centric” staff. “We know our 475 kids not only by their name and face, but also by their passions,” he said. “We ask our teachers to really get to know their students’ interests.”

Because Sunset is the “transition school” between elementary and high school, all the staff are “really purposeful in what we do. We help our students to blossom and empower and engage them to be higher-level learners,” Barela said.

Sunset offers several co-curricular activities, including Stem Explorers, drama, newspaper, robotics, music, Planetary Protectors, Dungeons and Dragons, Mwebaza Club and Spanish. Middle school also is the first time organized sports are offered through the schools to students. “We teach them how to balance their academic work, activities and sports,” Barela said. “We also encourage them to explore new activities and ideas.”

Sunset is an International Baccalaureate (IB) Middle School program school, which helps bring a global perspective to the school’s students. “We have worked hard to raise and maintain high academic standards at our school,” he said.

Sunset is holding a May Showcase from 5 to 7 p.m. on May 2 at the school. It includes an art and project walk and performances by A Capella, Jazz Band, Orchestra and drama students. “We really are proud to show what our students have accomplished,” Barela said.

Niwot High School

The approximately 1,200 students at Niwot High School are a diverse group, Principal Eric Rauschkolb said. About 50 percent are minority students and 40 percent of the students open-enroll at the school. “Our diversity helps make us strong,” Rauschkolb said.

Niwot High offers both Advanced Placement classes and the IB program. About 40 percent of students are enrolled in Niwot’s pre-IB or IB classes. The school has the highest average ACT and SAT scores in the district, and 87 percent of its students pursue post-secondary education.

Rauschkolb emphasized that AP and IB classes will be open to all students next year. The IB program will begin offering certificates in addition to the IB diploma program, so that students who want to take rigorous IB courses in one or two subject areas will be able to do so.

The high school offers 22 varsity sports, 40 different clubs, five choirs, five bands, two orchestras, debate and forensics, and drama. “About 90 percent of our students are involved in something extra- or co-curricular,” Rauschkolb said.

The school is slated for $8.5 million in new construction, which will fund six new classrooms, improving the curb appeal of the school, adding Solatubes to all the interior classrooms, installing new carpet throughout the building, renovating the library space to create a media center and makerspace, expanding the tennis courts to eight, adding a new special education suite and a new counseling suite, and reconfiguring the main staircase to create a “learning commons” area for students.

“And our auditorium will be refreshed as part of the $8.5 million in improvements coming for the school,” Rauschkolb added.

The NCA annual meeting concluded with a listing of the group’s 2018 accomplishments and plans for 2019.


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