School’s Center of Excellence provides choices for students |

School’s Center of Excellence provides choices for students

Photo courtesy Marianne AckermanMiddle School eighth-graders learn from a park ranger during a trip to Arches National Park.

Carbondale seventh-grader Adrianna Romero “hated” math when she was younger.”My mom would have to go in and talk to the teachers and see how I could get more excited about math,” Romero said.Thanks to an inspiring fourth-grade teacher and continued opportunities to excel at Carbondale Middle School, math is one of her best classes now. She has moved ahead one year in the subject, and next year as an eighth-grader, she and other students will take geometry with freshmen at Roaring Fork High School. The advanced math option is just one of dozens of enrichment and special offerings available to Carbondale Middle School students.”The variety is great. We have all these cool classes and awesome teachers,” said Romero, who was born in the Roaring Fork Valley and dreams of becoming a lawyer to defend abused children.Students may call the educational options cool, but school leaders and parents have dubbed the CMS program a Center of Excellence. A group of community members under the umbrella of the Carbondale Advisory Committee, which focuses on positive assets of the town’s public schools, collaborated with school leaders to fine-tune and formalize the CMS curriculum starting in December.Already in place and succeeding are 90-minute classes, a daily extended reading time, outdoor and experiential lessons from trips to Mesa Verde to Denver museums, and enrichment classes from jazz band to Web design for students who already demonstrate proficiency in core academic classes. CMS offers a rotating time for exploratory lessons ranging from team challenges to art seminars. The school also emphasizes the development of social skills from tolerance to conflict resolution, participation in sports, diversity celebrations, and a stable staff of teachers who have high expectations for their students.Based on input from the community, next year CMS will add Spanish language instruction for all students in a bilingual intercambio format, an arts and humanities application course on Fridays, Advanced Placement classes, and eighth-grade externships with off-campus visits at regional resources.”This is going to be a more structured effort on our part to tap into community resources,” said principal Cliff Colia. “We recognize that Carbondale, as much as any community, has a real concentration of expertise in the sciences, arts and technology. We really want to connect our students with our local expertise in a personal way.”Colia said he believes middle school represents a key educational window to provide choices and opportunities for students.”We have to make connections with kids, get kids connected with their schools and community, and get them excited about their own personal growth,” Colia said. Parents and community members say the CMS program goes over and above standard education. Public school advocate Bill Lamont said the individualized programs “show that CMS is going to be teaching to the whole child.”CMS exemplifies the creativity and focus on students that is crucial to all schools,” assistant superintendent Judy Haptonstall said. “We are excited to see the results of school, community and parent collaboration in putting meaning to ‘Centers of Excellence.'”Suzie Romig is the RFSD’s public information officer.

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