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Autumn teaches us a valuable lesson. During summer, all the green trees are beautiful. But there is no time of the year when the trees are more beautiful than when they are different colors. Diversity adds beauty to our world.
– Donald H. Hicks, "Look into the stillnes"  
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  Volume No. 17 Issue No. 9 September 2020  

None Book Review   None Community Calendar   None Community Photos   None Did You Know?  
None Editorial   None FFPD News   None From the Publisher   None Marks Meanderings  
None Monkey Business   None News From D 49   None People on the Plains   None Pet Adoption Corner  
None Pet Care   None Phun Photos   None Prairie Life   None Wildlife Matters  
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  May BOE meeting wrap-up
  By Lindsey Harrison

   All members of the El Paso County Colorado School District 49 Board of Education were present for a video conference of the regular May meeting.
   Board update
   Kevin Butcher, vice president, apologized to the high school seniors who had to miss many of the traditional graduation activities because of the coronavirus; he wished them good luck in their future.
   Dave Cruson, treasurer, thanked district staff and community members for the recent support they have provided to D 49, and said he is working with employees in the business department to lessen the impact of any necessary changes that must be made. “That is my commitment to you all as a staff and commitment to our community that we will be as responsible and as transparent, but also know that we are going to do the best that we can,” he said.
   Rick Van Wieren, secretary, said he attended the District Accountability Advisory Committee’s meeting and commended members who spend their evenings on D 49 business.
   John Graham, president, said they are trying to determine what will happen during the summer and fall. He congratulated all D 49 students for completing a difficult second semester of the school year.
   Chief officers’ update
   Peter Hilts, chief education officer, recognized the students who have participated in the student board of representatives, especially the few who graduated in 2020. “We have had really great attendance at both our student board meetings and at our board of education district meetings,” he said.
   Hilts said the district is putting together plans for graduation ceremonies, tentatively set for June 25, 26 and 27 for the three traditional high schools: Falcon, Sand Creek and Vista Ridge.
   Brett Ridgway, chief business officer, thanked the payroll employees for taking care of the district staff so the district staff could take care of the students. “Everyone needs to know that next year’s budget will be significantly different,” he said. “The leadership teams are already working, making decisions carefully as they plan for next year.”
   Pedro Almeida, chief operations officer, said the “safer at home” strategy announced by Gov. Jared Polis on April 27 has allowed the district to loosen some of their restrictions with building partners, vendors and contractors to continue projects inside schools from the 3B mill levy override project list.
   “Finding the right balance and making sure that we are getting our mission done and balancing that with health concerns and safeguarding our students, our staff, our families and our community, and hitting the right balance is what we are focused on,” Almeida said.
   Student board of representatives’ update
   Jordan Reynolds, an 11th-grade student from FHS, thanked everyone for their support and making the transition to e-learning as easy as possible.
   Action items
   The BOE unanimously approved the following:
  • The charter contract for the Pioneer Technology and Arts Academy
  • Dissolution of the charter contract with the Automotive Institute of Science and Technology because facility and enrollment conditions have not been met
  • Updates to the job description for the senior systems administrator, student information systems
  • The Accuplacer Preparatory course at VRHS to help juniors and seniors reach their postsecondary goals and provide the opportunity to demonstrate mastery in math and English through Next Generation Accuplacer scores
  • Addition of courses at VRHS: English lab tutor; math lab tutor; SAT English Preparatory; work study; and WorkKeys
  • Student fees for the 2020-2021 school year
  • Nutrition services charter school meal contracts for the 2020-2021 school year
  • Pay schedules for the 2020-2021 school year
  • Chief officers’ goals for the 2020-2021 school year
  • Revisions to the policy regarding school wellness

   Discussion items
   Josh Harbaugh, facility project manager, provided an update on current 3B mill levy override projects, with the focus on “refresh and refurbish” projects. He also discussed upcoming projects throughout the district.
   John Newbill, president of the DAAC, presented the committee’s finance areas that each school would like to focus on related to the 3B MLO projects. He said they received a response from every school and hopes that by going through the list earlier, more analysis of the listed items could be done.
   Newbill also presented bylaw revisions for the DAAC to clarify roles, the appointment process and the terms of service for general members and the executive board. Officer terms are two years with staggered starts.
   Ridgway presented a budget update that indicates the per-pupil revenue will either remain flat or trend slightly down. The Colorado Legislature’s joint budget committee received a forecast showing the 2019-2020 budget estimate is $11 billion, a $1 billion shortfall, and they estimate a $2.3 billion shortfall next year, he said. More information should be available at the regular June BOE meeting, Ridgway said.
   The board discussed timing of a vote on the budget, which statutorily must be done by June 30, and other concerns about the impacts of COVID-19 on the upcoming school year.
   Ron Sprinz, director of finance, presented proposed revisions to the job description for the payroll technician and P-card specialist and recommended a pay increase from the current amount. The board discussed the rationale of a pay increase with so much uncertainty about the budget. The board voted to move the item forward as presented in a 3-2 vote, with Graham and Koster opposed because they wanted to keep the pay range at its current level.
   Monica Deines-Henderson, director of nutrition services, presented updated job descriptions related to her staff. The BOE unanimously voted to move the revised descriptions forward as action items.
   Nancy Lemmond, executive director of individualized education, presented information about the teacher on special assignment — special education compliance position, temporarily added earlier this year. She recommended keeping the position, and is working with Sprinz to find the funds in the budget.
   The BOE unanimously voted to move this item forward.
   Cathy Tinucci, principal at Skyview Middle School, presented information about a proposed course on computer science discoveries. It would replace a seventh-grade general technology class and does not impact the budget, she said.
   The board unanimously voted to move this item forward.
   The next regular meeting of the BOE is June 11 at 6:30 p.m. in the board room at the D 49 Education Services Center.
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  Pikes Peak Early College: a new type of high school
  By Ava Stoller

   According to, “During the 2019-2020 academic year, the average yearly cost of college tuition, fees and room and board was $30,500. For an in-state, public, two-year college, it costs roughly $13,000 a year. A student would pay about $22,000 annually for a four-year, in-state, public college. The average total price for a four-year degree is about $122,000.”
   For the 2019-20 school year, Pikes Peak Community College charged $180 per credit. If a student takes five classes — each class is three credits — one semester will cost $2,700. Two semesters in one school year will cost a student $5,400. A 60 credit associate degree will total about $11,000.
   What if a student could take those classes for free?
   El Paso County Colorado School District 49 offers high school students free college classes through a program commonly referred to as dual enrollment or concurrent enrollment.
   Pikes Peak Early College is a high school in District 49 specializing in providing dual enrollment to their students. “A few qualities that I think sets PPEC apart from other schools is that we are one of the only blended learning schools in Colorado that offers as much college as we do,” said Rochelle Kolhouse, associate principal of PPEC. “Students can get up to 60 credits or an associate degree through PPEC.
   “Another thing I’d add is that we have an incredible staff, amazing teachers; there’s a good climate of culture here, and students are really a big, happy family. And you don’t feel that way or see that a lot in other schools.”
   D 49 has a department dedicated to dual enrollment and creating liaisons with each college. “The district has been instrumental in making partnerships with colleges. Because of the partnerships and funds from the state, we are able to allow students to take college classes without having to pay for a whole lot, other than textbooks, which is pretty nice.”
   In D 49, each college class is free because the Colorado funds dual enrollment through income tax, property tax or per-pupil funding for each school.
   Kolhouse said funding is different from district to district. “We get most of our funding from property taxes, and we also get funds from the state based on how many students there are enrolled in each school, so there is a per-pupil funding. And it’s from the per-pupil funding that we allocate funds for concurrent enrollment.”
   Attending Pikes Peak Early College is a commitment. Students must be focused on advancing and motivated to put in the time and effort to get to the college level.
   The program is great for students looking for a challenge; students who want flexibility and excelled learning opportunities, Kolhouse said.
   “It cuts out a lot of the fluff that we teach in high school and lets kids get to the meat and potatoes of it,” she said. “I think it provides students individualized education that you really can’t get anywhere else.”
   How does PPEC know a student is ready for college classes?
   “For us, it’s a body of evidence,” said Dale Bonavita, PPEC counselor.
    “A student must, first and foremost, qualify by taking the Accuplacer exam, or SAT, or ACT. That in and of itself doesn’t necessarily mean that a student is ready for college classes. The second step in our process is that they will take a College Readiness Assessment Form with their English or math teacher, where they grade themselves based on their abilities with time management, communication, grit and resilience.”
   The next step is determining how the student can handle situations like communications with professors, Bonavita said.
   “Academics are not the only requirement,” he said. “Students need to show that they have 21st century soft skills,” like following through with appointments, checking emails, etc. “In the end, it’s a full body of evidence that the student demonstrates; it’s academics and all of this other stuff that tells us a student is ready to take college classes.”
   Through the concurrent enrollment program, students will know what to expect in a college environment. They will have a support structure, while learning how to deal with college level pressure. Last, the class is free, decreasing future student loan debt.
   According to, 38 percent of students drop out of college because of financial strain; 28 percent of students leave college as a freshman; and the average amount of student loan debt is $37,000.
   Bonavita said students at PPEC can defy these statistics.“It was found in districts — talking locally — (that) not all students were graduating and going to college,” he said. “A lot of students were graduating high school, and then they would not attend college because they just didn’t know what they wanted to do; or they thought they couldn’t afford it. In our school, I think concurrent enrollment helps kids be more successful in college and continue their college career because whether you are leaving with 15 college credits or 40, students now have an idea of what they want to do.”
   To learn more about Pikes Peak Early College, visit or call 719-494-8924.
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