Coal Ridge recognizes academic advancement

Coal Ridge High School seniors sign letters of intent to enroll at colleges around the country.
Will Grandbois / Post Independent |

Teens face few bigger periods of change in life than entering and leaving high school, and Coal Ridge is doing its best to ease those transitions.

On Tuesday, the school held its annual academic signing, honoring every student pursuing higher education, not just the athletes.

Of 128 members of the senior class, 93 have been accepted into college and another five are enlisting in the armed forces. Each was presented to the assembled student body before they bent in unison to sign their name to the school of their choice. Many were bound for nearby schools such as Colorado Mesa University and Colorado Mountain College, while others opted to travel as far as Hawaii or Alberta.

At the end of the ceremony, each presented a flower to someone who made an impact on their time in high school — some opting for parents, while others chose a favorite teacher or a good friend.

Riley Bolitho, who will pursue Russian and Eurasian Studies at George Mason University near Washington, D.C., said the ceremony made an impact.

“I think it’s an important sign of all the hard work we’ve put in. It gives a message to other students that there’s an expectation for graduation and higher education,” he said. “I’m very blessed to have been part of Coal Ridge and I wouldn’t have it any other way, but I’m looking forward to a change of pace.”

Kathryn Senor, who plans to study nursing at the University of Colorado in Colorado Springs, felt much the same.

“It’s very sentimental,” she said. “It’s that next step forward into adulthood.”

Principal Rick Elertson emphasized that while college may not be right for everyone, he wants everyone to have the option.

“This is the dream that all of us have for you,” he told the assembly. “This is why we do what we do every single day.”

“Knowing that the kids have a next step makes us feel much more comfortable that they’re not just lost out there in the world,” he added later.

Getting them there starts well before senior year.

“We have a significant drop in achievement between eighth and ninth grade, which is sort of a national trend,” Elertson observed. “When they come in behind, they often never catch up.”

To combat that, the school is launching a new program called Jumpstart, which will provide incoming freshmen who struggle with math or literacy the chance to catch up. The program will introduce back-to-back 60-minute classes of remedial and grade-level work taught by the same teacher, providing twice as much instruction time for those who need it. Bilingual upperclassmen mentors will assist those who struggle because of unfamiliarity with English.

Students are sorted into Jumpstart based on teacher recommendations and test scores, and will have a chance to test out at the semester. So far, one section of reading and writing and two of math are planned for next year, with room to grow.

“We’re really interested in closing that achievement gap,” Elertson said. “The vision of the program is for every student, by the end of the first year, to be on grade level.”

Coal Ridge has also recently been approved for one more layer of support — an online school within a school. Although the school previously offered customized online courses to students who needed a different type of structure, those courses have generally been done on the students’ own time and without teacher supervision. The new program will add a full-time teacher and allocated school time to the equation.

Between that and Jumpstart, Elertson is optimistic that future academic signings will see an even higher percentage of students taking the next step.

“I think it’s going to provide the best opportunity I’ve seen to ensure the success of every single kid in our school,” he said.

Support Local Journalism

Support Local Journalism

Readers around Glenwood Springs and Garfield County make the Post Independent’s work possible. Your financial contribution supports our efforts to deliver quality, locally relevant journalism.

Now more than ever, your support is critical to help us keep our community informed about the evolving coronavirus pandemic and the impact it is having locally. Every contribution, however large or small, will make a difference.

Each donation will be used exclusively for the development and creation of increased news coverage.