Busy week for Thompson School Board

By Dan Karpiel

The Surveyor

At last Wednesday’s meeting of the Thompson School District (TSD) Board of Education, a lot of ground was covered across multiple fronts.

The TSD board approved of creating an intergovernmental agreement (IGA) with the Town of Berthoud for a parcel of land northwest of Berthoud High School for use as a public-access dog park. The board also received a lengthy curriculum update from Tracy Stegall, TSD executive director of Teaching and Learning and Shannon Clarke, director of Curriculum and Learning Design. The board voted to waive the technology fee for all students for the 2019-20 school year, and the board received a thorough report on the results of the Colorado Department of Education assessment and performance frameworks results.

The board approved the IGA with the Town of Berthoud regarding the dog park property with a 6-0 vote. The parcel of land in question is currently owned by TSD but not being used and has no future plans for use. According to earlier reporting by the Surveyor, the location of the proposed dog park property begins immediately east of 10th Street and proceeds eastward for approximately 400 feet, sandwiched between Nielson Greenway and a drainage ditch.

Now that the TSD board has approved the IGA, work on the dog park can begin immediately. As earlier reported by the Surveyor, the town would not be putting much in the way of physical improvements into the area since TSD will retain ownership. The park will be fenced with gates for entry and exit, have two separate areas for large and small dogs, and the ground will be covered in mulch, while shade and water supplies will also be provided. At an earlier meeting of the Berthoud Board of Trustees, Parks and Recreation Director Jeremy Olinger stated that, once approved by the school board, work on the dog park could begin immediately and could potentially be completed by the end of September.

The board also heard a lengthy presentation regarding the new curriculum implementation at all three school levels – elementary, middle and high schools – which TSD Chief Academic Officer Dawne Huckaby called a “a big dang deal and a game-changer.” All aspects of the curriculum changes are tied to the new strategic plan, what the district is calling “Strive 2025,” that was approved at the last (Aug. 21) board meeting. “We want to make sure everything ties in with (Strive 2025),” said Clarke during the presentation.

This year’s step in the new curriculum implementation are centered around ReadyGen, a literacy program at the elementary schools, Big Ideas, for middle and high school math and EnVision, a math pilot program at the high schools. The new curriculum and associated materials were made available thanks to the additional funding brought about by the voter-approved Mil Levy Override (MLO) last fall. Clarke explained the two pilot math programs will be displayed at district headquarters in Loveland, at the Loveland Public Library, and in all four district high schools for parent and community review and feedback.

Clarke also outlined a comprehensive plan to update a uniform, district-wide health curriculum which is currently “irrelevant” and a lot of hodge-podge. Through the process of creating the new health curriculum, Clarke explained the district will seek input on various aspects of the program from students, teachers and parents in order to ascertain the best approach. An additional reason for the need to update the health curriculum, Clarke explained, is a result of the passage of House Bill 19-1032 by the Colorado General Assembly. TSD will need to bring the health curriculum in-line with the requirements of the bill.

According to the Colorado State Legislature’s website, “The act prohibits instruction from emphasizing sexual abstinence as the primary or sole acceptable preventive method available to students and prohibits instruction from explicitly or implicitly using shame-based or stigmatizing language or instructional tools; employing gender stereotypes; or excluding the health needs of lesbian, gay, bisexual, or transgender individuals.”

The district also voted to waive student technology fees for the 2019-20 school year. The decision was made because, as the TSD works to upgrade the technology available in district schools, there is an inequity from building to building. Only Loveland’s Laurene Edmonson Elementary, Conrad Ball Middle and Mountain View High schools had achieved a 1:1 student:technology ratio before this school year, what the district calls “ubiquitous technology access.” Thanks to the voter approved bond and MLO, the district is racing to achieve that level across all schools with the goal to add Berthoud’s Ivy Stockwell Elementary to the list by the conclusion of the school year.

The technology fee, paid by most students in the district, brings in roughly $45,000 per year in revenue according to information provided by Matt Kuhn, chief technology officer for TSD, and Gordon Jones, chief financial officer. Yet, thanks to the passage of the bond and the MLO, the district is not in dire need of that funding and the board opted to refund the fee, which is $30 for elementary students and $45 for middle and high school students. Those who have already paid the fee will be reimbursed, the district said.

The next meeting of the school board takes place on Sept. 18 at the TSD offices in Loveland.

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