School board reports accountability

Photo by Patrick Shea The Upper Rio Grande School District reviewed District Accountability Committee (DAC) findings during their meeting on Thursday, March 28.

DEL NORTE — On top of being Tax Day, April 15 also marks the deadline for school districts to report District Accountability Committee (DAC) findings, and the Upper Rio Grande School District C-7 finished preparing documentation during their meeting on Thursday, March 28.
Aaron Horrocks (curriculum director and special projects) distributed text and fielded questions from board members. Established in 1995, the DAC process shares input from faculty members, administrators and community members to help resolve issues, identify areas for improvement and specify action plans. Meeting four times a year, the DAC in Del Norte will reconvene on May 6 to discuss a preliminary budget. Horrocks also mentioned that the committee is looking for another parent representative.
In other school board news, the construction project is on schedule. However, the timing for teachers to transition from current classrooms to their new space is tight and complicated. As a result, settling on a school calendar is a challenge.
The 2019–2020 school year is “not a normal year,” Superintendent Chris Burr explained, “because the new school building opens in the middle of the year. It’s not going to be easy.”
To accrue required hours, the district needs to have 141 student days to constitute a full year. Teachers need 150 contract days, and nine days are reserved for staff development. Burr estimates at least four days for teachers to make the move, a cumbersome process. But no one can enter the building to begin working full-time until the district receives a “Certificate of Occupancy.” A contracted moving company is prepared to work during the 2019 winter break to help meet the deadline.
“This will be like starting a brand new school year in January,” Burr said. “We want to fit it in the winter break, and we want to have a grand opening.” Noting chances for parents to meet teachers every year, Burr would like to put on a “Meet your school night.”
With teacher input, board members will finalize the school year calendar before the May 10 submission deadline to the Colorado Board of Education. The calendar turns on a hard start date yet to be determined.
While the new building goes up, the existing buildings need to come down or transition to other owners. The High Valley Community Center and United States Forest Service are prepared to complete the transfer and lease spaces back to the school district in the meantime as classes continue uninterrupted.
The public comments portion of the meeting provided clarification for district data. The total student count is currently 424. Eight new students started in Del Norte this week, including three from the Creede School District. Discussing data from preceding years requires calibration for the present, as Burr clarified regarding discipline issues from the past. In addition to suspension and expulsion, the report included “Other Actions.” Burr explained that these conferences can include any combination of teachers, parents, students and administrators.
When asked what the school is doing about student retention, President Neal Walters quickly answered, “We’re making a better school. We expanding our sports and other options.” Parents who removed their children from the district in the past cited reasons ranging from too much to too little discipline.
Burr added that he thinks having art and music helps draw students to school. Elementary School Principal Amy Duda said she has the seen the culture improving since she started. According to Burr, “Our numbers for discipline issues are way down.”
The next Upper Rio Grande School District meeting will take place on Thursday, April 25.

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