Security for middle and elementary schools, redesigned classrooms and almost 7,000 new computers are among the changes Douglas County School District students will notice when they return to school.
They’ll also experience some intangible changes in the form of updated teaching methods, revamped lesson plans and, in a handful of schools, the introduction of themed education models.
Most of the county’s schools open for the 2013-14 academic year Aug. 12, though a handful started classes Aug. 5.
“There are a lot of really exciting things coming this year,” Superintendent Elizabeth Fagen said. “This has been the busiest summer I can remember in education.”
The most visible change will be at the district’s middle and elementary schools, where armed, plainclothes law-enforcement officers will patrol buildings through a district partnership forged in early summer.
A school resource officer also will split time between Sky View Academy and the STEM high schools. The officers already are fixtures at the district’s other nine high schools.
“The marshal program obviously is a huge thing for parents to really have that sense of another layer of safety for our middle and elementary school students,” Fagen said. “It’s also part of our commitment to partnering with folks in the community, using that common-sense approach to improving and innovating.”
Three years of curriculum changes designed to provide a 21st-century education now are hitting the ground, Fagen said.
“I feel like we spent one year talking about why American education needs to change,” said Fagen, hired as DCSD’s superintendent in June 2010. “The next two years we started working together to build new curriculum, write new assessments and units. This is the year where we have these pioneer teachers, who’ve really had enough time and opportunity to learn and grow, launching these units.
“Not everybody’s there yet, which is perfectly fine. But now we have these people in front, ready now to launch something different than they did before.”
Fagen hopes that will help district staff, students and parents understand the district’s education reform efforts.
“We do spend a lot of time talking about things,” she said. “Implementation is so key to people actually feeling ‘We’ve made it somewhere,’ so they have that inspiration to move another step forward.”
DCSD introduced during the 2012-13 school year a controversial new teacher evaluation system. This year, it also will launch principal evaluations and, as required by the state, student growth assessments.
Schools also are upgrading technology, purchasing nearly 7,000 computers, iPads, and Chromebooks for the new year.
Two new charter schools will debut in September. Castle Rock’s Aspen View Academy plans a Sept. 3 opening and Parker’s American Academy – the second American Academy in the county – is set to open Sept. 23. Both will help offset high student growth pressures in the rapidly expanding communities.
DCSD also added about 150 new teachers to its staff, now at 3,600.
“It’s been a long recession for everyone,” Fagen said. “To see our schools starting to build back is a really good feeling.”