Phased dual-language plan to open Riverview School
Dual-language learning at the new Riverview School south of Glenwood Springs will begin in earnest at the lowest grade levels, with the plan being to add a grade level each year, according to a school design plan adopted by the Roaring Fork School District board last week.
Students in preschool classes through second grade will be taught in a 50-50 English and Spanish dual language model and will continue under that plan every year going forward with the goal being to send bilingual and biliterate students on to high school once they leave eighth grade.
Under the phased rollout plan, incoming students in grades three through eight will benefit from a more robust project-based-learning model to start, but will receive their core instruction in English.
In keeping with the dual-language focus, those students will still receive 45 to 60 minutes of instruction in Spanish every day, according to the plan presented by Principal Adam Volek.
“Our student demographics present an amazing opportunity for a dual language school,” Volek wrote in a 66-page design plan, which will guide the new school through its formative years.
Part of the district’s $122 million bond issue, the new $34 million Riverview School is meant to ease overcrowding at existing Glenwood Springs schools that have been at or above capacity for several years.
As designed, Riverview will serve students in grades pre-kindergarten through eighth grade, primarily from a defined attendance area south of Glenwood along the Colorado 82 corridor.
“To ensure a smooth opening year, Riverview’s enrollment was capped at roughly 50 students per grade level,” Volek explained in the plan.
Approximately 50 percent of the students will come from what had been the Sopris Elementary School attendance, while about 10 percent are coming from Glenwood Springs Elementary, and approximately 38 percent will come from Glenwood Springs Middle School.
The remainder of students were allowed to choose Riverview over their neighborhood schools elsewhere in the district under a strict school choice policy that was implemented by the district earlier this year.
Riverview School is on track to open its doors to students when the new school year begins on Sept. 5, although some parts of the building will remain under construction and unusable for the first part of the school year.
The combined dual language, project-based learning model for the school was the result of a community input process as the new school was first being discussed and planned.
“The community’s mission led us to create … an incredibly innovative approach that is strongly supported by research and the evidence of success across many public, private and charter schools through the United States and beyond,” Volek wrote.
Project-based learning is nothing new to Roaring Fork Schools, Volek noted, referring to GSES, which is an official Expeditionary Learning school, as well as the “crew” approach to academic goal-setting and development of character skills that is used in all district schools.
The idea is to allow students to apply real-life learning experiences and to demonstrate what they’ve learned through specific “real world” projects. Students must then create public displays and give presentations about what they’ve learned.
Volek also addressed the teacher recruiting and hiring decisions that were part of the school development plan. Those decisions have been somewhat contentious since teachers who were let go from Sopris Elementary and Glenwood Middle School as a result of the intended enrollment shift to Riverview were not guaranteed positions at the new school.
“We went to great lengths to recruit the best possible candidates in order to hire a staff that supports the implementation of a two-way, dual language program,” the principal explained in the written plan.
Adoption of the dual-language format required that 50 percent of classroom teachers at Riverview be bilingual, he said.
“Although we are fortunate to have many bilingual teachers on staff, we are also developing partnerships with local organizations such as Colorado Mountain College to continue to develop current teachers’ bilingual abilities through opportunities for second-language acquisition,” Volek wrote.
In adopting the Riverview design plan, school board members at a special July 6 meeting said they intend to establish a process to make sure the goals of the new school are being accomplished.
“The work that has gone into this plan is commendable, but we do need to be able to show that we’ve accomplished what we said we were going to accomplish,” board member Matt Hamilton said.
Just how the board intends to do that will be a topic for an upcoming board retreat to start the new school year.
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