District Receives Grant for New School
On Friday, May 17 the Colorado Department of Education Capital Construction Assistance Board recommended the Lake County School District (LCSD) to receive a $20.8M Building Excellent Schools Today (BEST) grant. This grant would provide 60% of the funding needed to replace the West Park Elementary School facility with a new building that would house LCSD’s preschool (PK) through second-grade students. LCSD’s PK program is currently housed at Pitts Elementary. To raise the $13.9M in matching funds required to receive the BEST grant, the LCSD Board of Education will likely seek a bond measure on the November 2019 ballot.
“We want to thank the Capital Construction Assistance Board for prioritizing Lake County School District’s students,” said LCSD Superintendent Dr. Wendy Wyman. “We are excited to start planning for a new PK-2 school that will positively support the learning, development, and physical and emotional wellbeing of our community’s youngest children.”
The PK-2 project was identified and prioritized as a part of the 2019 LCSD master planning process, managed by the school district with input from the Community Visioning Team and the broader Lake County community. The two schools that currently serve LCSD’s PK-2 students (West Park and Pitts Elementary School facilities) are ranked among the top 10 poorest-condition schools in the state by the Colorado Department of Education.
“We look forward to engaging the community both in discussions about a potential November 2019 ballot initiative, as well as the design of a new school for our community,” Wyman said. “We are excited to write our next chapter and move toward a future where our PK-2 facility offers a physical environment that matches and enhances our students’ enthusiasm for learning.”
About Building Excellent Schools Today (BEST)
BEST is a competitive grant that provides financial assistance to school districts for the construction and/or renovation of new or existing public schools. It is funded by revenue from the State Land Trust, lottery proceeds, marijuana excise taxes, matching grant funds, and interest on monies in the assistance fund.
Lake County High School (serving students in grades 7–12) was fully renovated with the support of a $15.1M BEST grant and the generosity of LCSD residents, who provided $11.0 M in matching funds through a successful bond measure in 2011.
LCHS Graduation, Class Day This Week
The Lake County School District wraps up its 2018-19 school year this week, culminating with graduation for the Class of 2019 on Saturday, May 25. The seniors’ tassels will be turned at the Lake County High School Commencement Ceremony starting at 10 a.m. at the high school gym. Congratulations to all the graduates, their parents, and teachers! Go Panthers!
Class Day will be held Thursday, May 23 at the high school auditorium. This event will begin at 1 p.m. and is an inspiring program of scholarships distributions and awards. Come and celebrate the Class of 2019’s accomplishments. That same day there will be the following grade and awards ceremonies:
- 8:30 – Kinder Awards
- 9:30 a.m. – First Grade Awards
- 10:30 – Second Grade Awards
LCHS Senior Joins Ivy League
By Bunny Taylor, Lake County School District
As a freshman, Bianca Gonzales walked into Lake County High School (LCHS) already having her sights set high. At her first meeting with Acacia Fike-Nelson, who was her advisor in Upward Bound, Bianca said that she wanted to attend a prestigious college and that her classes were too easy.
“I was always looking for a challenge,” noted Bianca. Acacia helped to enroll her in the dual enrollment program through Colorado Mountain College (CMC) and set her on a path to earn an Associates Degree as a junior in high school.
Bianca also knew that she wanted to be involved in many activities at LCHS right away. During her fours years, she has been a leader on Student Senate and Future Business Leaders of America (FBLA). She also volunteered two night a week in the local community as a GED tutor at CMC. She was a member of Link Crew, a program that mentored freshman. Bianca has been part of the cheerleading team and as a counselor to 6th graders at their outdoor education camp.
Roxie Aldaz, who taught Bianca in business classes and was the faculty sponsor in Future Business Leaders of America, remarked about Bianca, “Sometimes women are more concerned with beauty than brains; [Bianca] has her priorities straight.”
Bianca’s high school career also included two semesters away from Lake County High School. She spent the fall of her junior year at the local High Mountain Institute (HMI) and the fall of her senior year at City Term in New York City. “I always knew that I wanted to do something different with high school. Those two programs were my way to explore the world.”
Through these experiences, Bianca grew as a student and a person. “I feel like I discovered pieces of myself at those places that I wouldn’t have discovered if I stayed here. At HMI, I learned that I love the outdoors. I figured out who I actually was. At HMI, they were very focused on community, so there I was able to build relationships with others. At City Term, I became more independent. When I first got [to New York City], I couldn’t travel by myself. I was so scared to be alone anywhere. By the end, it felt nice to be by myself.”
This spring, Bianca was named a Daniels Scholar, a recognition given to 218 high-achieving students in Colorado, Utah, Wyoming, and New Mexico who demonstrate exceptional character, leadership, and a commitment to serving their communities. The associated scholarship will pay for all costs to attend any college or university in the country. Bianca is the only Daniels Scholar this year from Lake, Chaffee, Summit, and Eagle counties.
Bianca will attend Georgetown University in Washington, DC this fall. She plans to major in Political Science and Creative Writing. Although Bianca applied to thirty colleges and universities around the country, Georgetown rose to the top of her list. “The location is perfect for what I want to do with my life because it is very politically involved. The campus is a mix of city and outdoors, which is a mix of me.”
In addition, the Daniels Fund program provides support, mentorship, and a network of other Daniels Scholars to connect with. “I’m excited for the network. The money part is nice, but they offer a lot of support for freshman. They have two Daniels Scholars at Georgetown right now. The support that they offer will be the best thing.”
Bianca remarked that, “my family has been my biggest supporter. When I left [to attend HMI and CityTerm] they probably weren’t very happy, but they have always been supportive.” Bianca’s family includes her mother Vianca, her father Alberto, and her little brother Abel.
In addition, Bianca is grateful for the support and guidance that Acacia Fike-Nelson, Roxie Aldaz, Kelly Hofer, precollegiate coordinator, Karl Remsen, advisor, Kelli McCall, CMC professor and GED tutoring coordinator, and the teachers at Lake County, HMI, and CityTerm all provided along the way.
Bianca already has lofty goals after she graduates Georgetown. She plans to be a Rhodes Scholar and study at Oxford, and then she will attend law school in order to become a civil rights attorney. She would like to work in government and has mentioned becoming a senator. Eventually, she also wants to publish her own novel. Given her history here in Lake County, it seems like only a matter of time before Bianca has accomplished all of her goals.
My Two Bills Worth
By Joyce Rankin, Colorado Board of Education
Spring has arrived at last, and the legislative session has come to an end, not without a huge sigh of relief from many who work at the Capitol. Education bills are always a big part of the session’s activity and this year was no exception. Two bills worked their way through both Chambers with support from both sides of the aisle. In my opinion, they were the most important bills passed since I’ve been representing the Third Congressional District on the State Board of Education.
The Colorado Reading to Ensure Academic Development Act (Colorado READ act), was important for several reasons. First, it’s based on evidence and science and includes the foundational skills of teaching reading: phonemic awareness, phonics, vocabulary development, reading fluency and comprehension. It also requires oversight authority by the Department of Education to ensure that the READ Act dollars are spent correctly. All K-3 teachers will be trained in evidence-based practices by 2022, and a third-party evaluator will thoroughly assess the program results for effectiveness. Through an advertising campaign, the community along with libraries and parents will be kept informed of the reading program and its local impact. Districts experiencing student success will be highlighted at district and state levels. With only 40% of our third graders reading at grade level this bill brought a sense of urgency to the problem. Adding accountability allowed the bill to gain bipartisan support in both houses.
My second bill of importance was House Bill 19-1030 – Unlawful Electronic Sexual Communication. The bill was brought forward because of a case of “sexting” between a teacher and a fifteen-year-old student in Craig, Colorado. HB19-1030 closed a loophole in the law that now protects students between the ages of 15-17 from this form of communication with a “person of trust.” A jury acquitted the defendant in December 2018. With the legislative session beginning in January, there was a flurry of communication when Craig school Superintendent Dave Ulrich called me and expressed concern about the safety of his students and the concern of the community. I was able to get then Representative Bob Rankin as a bill sponsor. As Representative Rankin moved to the Senate, he continued as a bill sponsor, and Representative Matt Soper led the charge in the House. Thanks to everyone who was involved in this case including sponsors Senators Rankin and Rachel Zenzinger, Representatives Soper and Dylan Roberts, and a special thank you to the Craig Daily Press who covered the case, keeping the community informed as it made its way through the legislative process. From start to finish this was accomplished in sixth months. On May 9th the Governor signed HB19-1030 into law.
This is a very brief highlight of two important bills that I focused on during the 2019 session. I will continue to follow the READ Act as it’s implemented throughout the 3rd CD. The good news is that some of our teachers have learned and are already applying The Foundational Skills of Teaching Reading. The “REALLY” good news is that their students are succeeding, and reading scores in their classrooms are improving.
It continues to be an honor to serve constituents in the Third Congressional District. Happy Spring!
Joyce Rankin, a retired teacher, is on the State Board of Education representing the Third Congressional District, which includes Leadville and Lake County. She writes the monthly column, “Across the Street” to share with constituents in her district. The Department of Education, where the State Board of Education meets, is located across the street from the Capitol.