Student success and college readiness bring growth at school
By Aimee Eaton
For the second year in a row, the Crested Butte Community School received a gold medal award in the US News and World Report ranking of high schools.
The rankings identify the top 6,041 public high schools nationally and award them gold, silver and bronze medals. The medals act as an identifier of college readiness.
Within Colorado the Community School was ranked 10th and was the only school on the Western Slope in the top 20. Nationally, CBCS is ranked 260th.
“We’re incredibly proud of what the Community School is achieving,” said Gunnison Watershed School District superintendent Doug Tredway. “Statewide, the majority of the schools ranked ahead of us are charter or magnet schools and many of these schools can have enrollment requirements. The Community School does not have enrollment criteria. What it does have is a high-quality staff, great students and fantastic community support.”
Since the opening of the Community School in 1997, it has been recognized multiple times in the rankings with bronze, silver and gold awards. CBCS principal Stephanie Niemi credits the bulk of these achievements to the school’s “phenomenal teachers who work so hard and the committed students.”
“Right now the culture of learning is truly at an all-time high,” Niemi said. “Students are taking their classes very seriously. They want to do well and they are.”
While US News relies heavily on standardized test scores to rank schools, CBCS is moving well beyond the tests to give students the classes and education that Niemi believes will help keep them motivated and provide a strong base for further education.
“We’re continuing to sustain and increase resources,” said Niemi. “We have new classes in computer science, engineering and industrial arts, and next year for the first time in a long time we’re going to offer an advanced placement science class—AP chemistry. Our goal is to give students more choices.”
The investment in academics seems to be paying off, as the majority of CBCS seniors are off to college in the fall. Student acceptances have included UCLA, Cal Poly, UC–Santa Cruz and several other highly competitive schools.
With all the recognition the CBCS has received and the strong performances of its students, Niemi said they are seeing an increase in student enrollment. It’s a good thing, but it is forcing Niemi and the district to look closely at how they’ll accommodate more students without compromising school and classroom performance.
“Right now we’re not projected to be too much bigger next year, maybe 10 or more students,” said Niemi. “But we are going to exceed classroom space. We’re looking closely at where classrooms will be, and we’re making sure we have a clear plan in place to accommodate growth.”
The district is in the middle of developing and presenting a facility plan for the CBCS. It’s a plan that will take multiple years, with the next two years using only the existing space, with some modifications. The 2019-2020 school year will likely be the first year to see additional classrooms, with the addition of one modular to the CBCS campus.
“For the next three or four years we’re going to follow this plan,” said Tredway. “After that we’ll see where we are with the numbers and if they’re matching up with the projections.”
The number projections were taken from the “Analysis of Current and Projected Enrollment” report created by the CBCS statistics class under the direction of Kriste Lyon, and show the student body growing to 775 students before the first modular will be put in place.
“It is important to note that the designed capacity of the Crested Butte Community School is currently 750 students,” said Tredway in the description of the plan given to school board members. “Before the bond passed in 2008 to expand the facility, the Crested Butte Community School’s designed capacity was 350 students. In 2008, 510 students attended the school.
“From 2001 to 2008 when enrolled students at the Crested Butte Community School exceeded the designed capacity, every available space in the building, along with two modular classrooms, was utilized to accommodate the growing student body,” Tredway continued. “Therefore, it is normal to anticipate a period of time after which capacity of the building has been reached and exceeded before expanding a facility.”