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Back to school, Sept. 4

The first day of school is just around the corner, teachers are making last-minute preparations, children are lamenting the end of summer, parents are rejoicing, and as Sept. 4 approaches the SUN reminds motorists to be extra vigilant, especially before and after school, and while driving in school zones and near crosswalks.

Dolly Martin, transportation director for Archuleta School District 50 JT, wants everyone to be aware of rules for those whose children will be riding the bus.

No student will be allowed to ride without being registered. Parents must register a student every year online at Also on the website are forms for students attending daycare, swim team, work, 4-H, girl scouts or any other after-school activities. No student will be allowed to get off the bus anywhere but the home stop without a bus pass. High school students need to ride their regular bus because of overcrowding issues for younger students. Any student that vandalizes the bus seats will be charged $25 for repairs, and parents will be notified.

The only change that has been made this year is that Route 8 will no longer extend to the Cat Creek mailboxes, due to a decrease in the number of riders. Anyone living in that area will need to bring their children to the mailboxes across the highway from the Turkey Springs Store. All bus routes, including pick-up and drop-off times, are available on the website.

Have children at the bus stop five minutes prior to the bus arrival time. Also, home phone numbers need to be updated with the district so timely notification can be made in case of a snow delay.

Pagosa Springs High School Principal David Hamilton stated, “The first day of school, (Sept. 4), is only for incoming freshmen and new students.  Considered freshmen orientation, this first day of school is reserved for freshmen to obtain schedules, find lockers, learn about high school clubs and organizations, and begin their ICAP (Individual Career and Academic Plan).”

Hamilton continued, “The first day of school for sophomores, juniors and seniors is Wednesday (Sept. 5).”

Hamilton continued, “In the past, students have ‘rigged’ their lockers to prevent them from locking.  Over the years the locking mechanism’s no longer work. Those who wish to secure their belongings will need to purchase a lock.”

Hamilton finished, saying, “We welcome two new teachers to the teaching staff:  J.D. Kurz from the junior high, and Nancy Goodell, from Dulce, New Mexico.  Two new aides to the special talents class are Julie Ojier and June Landgraf.”

Pagosa Springs Middle School Principal Chris Hinger wanted to make sure everyone knew about the one remaining open house/orientation night — for sixth, seventh and eighth grades at 5:30 p m. on Sept. 5.

Hinger emphasized the importance of this meeting, especially since this is where parents can sign up for their online accounts. He stands behind the school’s mission statement, “Empowering students to navigate the future through learning,” and is especially excited about the new technology the middle school is implementing.

“These kids are digital natives,” he said. “They are into technology, and so we are moving as hard and as fast as we can. One of the key points I talk to our fifth-grade parents about is this is a new school. We communicate differently. We use all of these mechanisms, and we really are paperless.”

Hinger also described the technology the teachers will use in their classrooms, including Smart Boards (interactive computerized white boards), clickers (hand-held devices that allow students to participate and respond) and computers.

Another item Hinger will describe at the open house is the new grading system.

Elementary school principal Kate Lister did not respond to calls to the school by press time.

Assistant Superintendent Linda Reed wants to let parents know, “We revamped the grading practices in the school district through a community-based process last year and are beginning to implement it this school year.”

A letter explaining the new grading system will go out shortly after school starts to all parents of students in the district. It will be posted on the school and district websites. Among other things, the letter states, “These changes are meant to enhance learning and support continuous academic growth.”

Superintendent Mark DeVoti welcomed teachers and staff back with a motivational speech. “As bold and courageous leaders,” he said, “when we see a challenge, we take it on.”

He went on to list several challenges the school district has faced, along with the innovative and creative ways that those challenges are being met and overcome. For example, “Our district has a sixty-percent poverty rate, yet our students are showing consistent growth.”

He finished by saying, “Teachers, know that you work in a district where we expect you to lead boldly, to take risks, and embrace innovations, to step out of your comfort zones … and it is safe to do so! And let that be foundational in your classrooms. Build relationships with students, and make it just as safe for them to take risks, without fear. Know that your principals support you, I support you, and the Board of Education supports you in embracing innovative practices.”

The district has announced its policy for determining eligibility of children who may receive free and reduced price meals served under the National School Lunch and School Breakfast Programs. Local school officials will use the following size and income criteria for determining eligibility.

A family of one with an annual income of $14,521 or less qualifies for free meals and $20,665 or less qualifies for reduced-price meals.

A family of two with an annual income of $19,669 or less qualifies for free meals and $27,991 or less qualifies for reduced-price meals.

A family of three with an annual income of $24,817 or less qualifies for free meals and $35,317 or less qualifies for reduced-price meals.

A family of four with an annual income of $29,965 or less qualifies for free meals and $42,643 or less qualifies for reduced-price meals.

A family of five with an annual income of $35,113 or less qualifies for free meals and $49,969 or less qualifies for reduced-price meals.

A family of six with an annual income of $40,261 or less qualifies for free meals and $57,295 or less qualifies for reduced-price meals.

A family of seven with an annual income of $45,409 or less qualifies for free meals and $64,621 or less qualifies for reduced-price meals.

A family of eight with an annual income of $50,557 or less qualifies for free meals and $71,947 or less qualifies for reduced-price meals.

For each additional family member add $5,148 to the last amount for free meals and $7,326 to the amount for reduced-price meals.

Application forms are being provided to all homes with a letter to parents. Additional copies are available at each school. The information provided on the application is confidential and will be used only for the purpose of determining eligibility and verifying data. Applications from families receiving Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) benefits (formerly the Food Stamp Program) or Food Distribution Program on Indian Reservations (FDPIR) need to list only the children’s names, name of the person receiving the program benefits, respective case number, and the signature of an adult household member.

All other households that would qualify based upon income must show the names of all household members related or not (such as grandparents, other relatives or friends), the amount of gross income each person receives in a month, the source and frequency of pay, the signature of an adult household member, and the last four digits of that adult’s social security number, or check the box if the adult does not have a social security number. The information on the application may be verified by the school or other program officials at any time during the school year.

Foster children who are under the legal responsibility of a foster care agency or court are eligible for free meals. Any foster child in the household is eligible for free meals regardless of income. If a family has foster children living with them and wishes to apply for meals, they should complete the application using the instructions for households that have foster and non-foster children residing in the home.

Under the provision of the Policy, ASD will review applications and determine eligibility. If a parent is dissatisfied with the decision, a request may be made to discuss it with the determining official. A formal appeal can be made either orally at 264-2228, Ext. 403, or in writing to Janell Wood, P.O. Box 1498, Pagosa Springs, Co. 81147. The policy contains an outline of the hearing procedure.

Applications can be submitted any time during the school year. If you are not eligible now, but have a decrease in income, become unemployed, have an increase in family size, or become eligible for SNAP or FDPIR benefits, you may fill out an application at that time.

Each school has a copy of the complete policy, which may be reviewed by any interested party.

The Richard B. Russell National School Lunch Act requires the information on this application. You do not have to give the information, but if you do not, the district cannot approve your child for free or reduced price meals. The district will use your information to determine if your child is eligible for free or reduced price meals, and for administration and enforcement of the lunch and breakfast programs. The district may share eligibility information with education, health and nutrition programs to help evaluate, fund or determine benefits for the programs, auditors for program reviews, and law enforcement officials to help them look into violations of program rules.

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