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High school students benefit from two, new partnerships and creative programs

To better serve the high school age students of Archuleta County and to fulfill its mission of “empowering students to achieve personal and academic successes in a safe and appropriate learning environment while providing them with the tools to effectively navigate the 21st century,” Archuleta School District 50 Jt. has entered into two new and exciting partnerships and is also providing additional options at Pagosa Springs High School.

The first is a three way partnership among the district, Archuleta County Education Center and Southwest Community College, a division of Pueblo Community College, to provide a competency based program that students between the ages of 17 and 20 can complete in one year. This comprehensive program will allow them to earn an Archuleta School District high school diploma and earn two college credits. The program features an individualized, self-paced skill based program that allows students flexibility, while providing support from knowledgeable and caring instructors. Students take additional courses in Career Planning, Civics, Applied Technology, Computer Skills and Digital Media. Students also participate in AAA Steps for Success. This two-credit college course prepares students for entry level job skills that are valued by employers and/or college success and planning for a career.

Students who graduate from the program can move directly into Southwest Colorado Community College in the fields of Allied Health, or Career and Technical programs such as auto mechanics, welding, cosmetology or Cisco Systems with many classes offered at the Archuleta County Education Center campus in Pagosa Springs. Students can earn an Associate of Arts or Science degree that they can use to transfer to a four year comprehensive university program, should they choose to pursue such an option.

In addition to all of the above, the program is also offering incentives for enrollment, graduation and progress, such as laptop computers, scholarships and a full graduation ceremony upon completion of the program.

The second partnership is with Southwest Colorado eSchool, an accredited, diploma granting high school for part-time or full-time students which is a collaborative effort through the San Juan Board of Cooperative Education Services (BOCES) which is made up of nine member districts in Southwest Colorado, of which Archuleta School District is one.

Full-time students in Southwest Colorado eSchool participate in classes aligned to the Colorado Academic Standards, taught by fully licensed and highly qualified teachers in each of the content areas. The program offers a flexible schedule, anytime and anywhere there is Internet access so that students can arrange schooling to address their personal needs. Students experience weekly, live courses and engage in regular interaction with other students across the state as well as teachers in their courses.

Part-time students can participate in a variety of classes, not offered by Archuleta School District 50 Jt. Social studies classes include Criminology, Forensics and Law and Order, as well as technical classes such as web/video design, C+++ and Java programming. Additionally, Southwest Colorado eSchool offers high level math classes such as Advanced Placement, Multi-Variant and Differential Calculus as well as Honors Calculus. Courses are presented by “live” teachers, are interactive and not just computer based. The student teacher ratio is much lower than most online schools (which average 300 students to 1 teacher), with a student teacher ratio of 150 students to one teacher. Also, unlike other online schools, Southwest Colorado eSchool students have access to local support and resources provided by the San Juan BOCES, such as speech and language, school psychologists, school social workers and a variety of academic counseling supports.

Southwest Colorado eSchool has contracted with Jefferson County 21st Century Virtual Academy, one of only two online schools in Colorado to meet Annual Yearly Progress (AYP) benchmarks. The Virtual Academy has also received national recognition as well as counting the National Online Teacher of the Year among their very talented group of instructors.

Finally, Pagosa Springs High School provides a comprehensive, rigorous and supportive high school program for students who thrive in a traditional high school setting, which provides core classes taught by highly skilled and caring teachers as well as a wide variety of elective and alternative options.

Even while facing budgets cuts from the national economic downturn, Pagosa Springs High School continually strives to develop student connections through innovative curriculum development. Through the establishment of a Fine Arts Magnet Academy (FAMA) within the school, students who have an interest in video production, art and theatre can explore and create in an atmosphere that encourages self expression. Part of their individual high school career plan, students embracing FAMA complete required core courses in conjunction with fine arts. Quarterly weekend classes, by master artisans, provide students with hands-on experience related to their passion.

Another innovative program offered by Pagosa Springs High School is modeled after a program from Oregon, called The Americana Project. Recognizing the musical talent of the student body, the Americana Project was developed for students who have a passion for learning about, writing and performing music. Using the guitar as the medium, students learn the history of American music while mastering their playing skills. Throughout the school year, the students and staff witness a demonstration of their musical proficiency by being favored with lunchtime concerts. Additionally, PSHS students are lead performing artists for visiting musical groups and community functions.

Students who are interested in Career and Technical Education (CTE) can participate in a variety of classes, designed to prepare them for a fulfilling career. Examples are in the automotive field, fire fighting, computer technology and programming, and business and medical office skills.

Lastly, students who are in need of experiential learning thrive in the Pirate Achievement Center (PAC). Completing outdoor learning activities throughout the year, PAC students hike, raft and ski while also completing their core courses. In addition, these students also participate in community service projects like assisting Habitat for Humanity to build affordable housing in Archuleta County. Part of the high school campus, PAC students are an integral part of the high school culture. Preparing students for the 21st century, they are continually striving to develop pathways and connections for student success.

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