Starting with record number of students
by Mark Reaman
For the first time ever, more than 700 students will show up for the first day of classes at the Crested Butte Community School (CBCS) when school begins Monday, August 29. When the CBCS opened in 1997, a total of 302 students were enrolled.
With less than a week to go before the academic year starts, the CBCS looks like a giant moving project – or actually dozens of moving projects that are taking place under one roof. Boxes are scattered in the hallways. Teachers are decorating rooms and preparing the layout for the new year. Electric cords are strewn about as computers are set up. There is a tangible excitement in the air.
“This time of year is always charged,” said elementary school principal Sally Hensley. “It’s electric around here. Teachers are nesting for their new family of students and we are all getting organized. There is a lot of new stuff to absorb as we are always trying to improve.”
“It’s my nineteenth year, and I’m really excited about the coming year,” said secondary school principal Stephanie Niemi. “We have an unbelievable staff. The teachers are very talented, hard working individuals who, together, comprise a great team.”
Grades six through seniors in high school will have 381 students. The kindergarten through grade five will have 331. The grade that went from fifth to sixth this year is the largest in the school with 72 students. That’s a major reason for the bump in secondary school numbers from 333 in 2015-16 to 381 this year. The elementary numbers actually declined a bit from 356 to 331. This year’s incoming kindergarten class had 40 students, down from 55 a year ago.
As a result of the number shifts, the elementary school downsized two teachers while the upper grades added Betsy Kolodziej as a math/science teacher and Amy Galey comes in for special education and math intervention responsibilities.
But it’s not just personnel that feel the impact of the numbers. Space continues to be an issue. Hensley said that while the elementary side of the building has a bit more elbow room with two classrooms not being used strictly for classes, one is still being used as an art room and the other as the base for a new elementary STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math) program for the K-5 students.
“That is one of the new additions we are excited about,” Hensley said. “It is a pilot program being funded through private donations,” she continued.
At the other end of the facility, Niemi went into design mode last spring and started tinkering with spaces to accommodate the growth in students. “We’ve given this a lot of thought and we all tried to be creative with what we have,” she said. “For example, we took what was a large custodial storage space but previously a technology classroom and turned it into the engineering room. It actually works pretty well with specially designed tables and chairs. It has a real industrial feel to it. We had to be creative and it worked. Overall, we have made it work but we are maxed out.”
The district has been consulting with a facilities planner to look at the current space and figure out how to maximize it. They are also starting to look at how to expand the school if the numbers continue to grow.
One other addition of note is the new computer science class for middle school students. Kriste Lyon will lead that class. She was a former computer analyst and meteorologist with NOAA (National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration). “Given the move toward the STEM program and future of jobs in the STEM area, computer science is a major part of that overall area. I’m really excited to be teaching that this year,” she said.
Chances are there will be a lot of excitement at the CBCS when the first bell rings Monday morning and 712 students start the long journey of another academic year.