By Curt Halsted
The first school board meeting of the 2021/2022 school year was held on August 17th. The first order of business was welcoming new teachers to the district. Each new employee enthusiastically introduced themselves. Beverly Schlager 5th grade, Heather Fuller HS Math, Cynthia Sliker MS/HS Language Arts, Danete Reihle 1st Grade, and Kristen Felix Special Education gave informative introductions. Look forward to a more in-depth feature about new staff at Gilpin. Dr. David MacKenzie (Dr. Dave) also welcomed Melissa Sternlicht as the school’s new SRO. Dr. Dave, Tracy Krug and Alexis Donaldson lauded the success of the sports team that kept competing into the summer. Coach Ball organized a successful regional High School 8 Man Elite Football Game with 400 fans in attendance. In Track and Field, more athletes participated in the State Final Track Competition than ever with 10 students qualifying. Finally the Cheerleading squad received a trophy for Excellence in leadership at their Summer Camp, and after qualifying for state competition, they finished 8th out of 26 teams.
Dr. Dave started his presentation by discussing the current Covid protocols that Gilpin has in place. Gilpin currently is following the CDC CDPHE recommendation that masks be encouraged but not required. While many surrounding districts are requiring all students and staff wear masks he said that at Gilpin we will continue to monitor cases of Covid in the school and community. He pointed out that at any time the board can decide to make masks mandatory. He shared that other mitigation protocols are in place such as distancing, and handwashing. He said the most effective protocol is parents keeping sick kids at home whether it is Covid or another illness. Board member Joe Marr thanked parents for keeping students home when sick, and also thanked the administration, and staff for putting in so much time and effort toward implementing learning and Covid protocols that continue to make learning at Gilpin a continued success. As the pandemic continues to evolve, Dr. Dave shared that the BinaxNOW Antigen Test Kits, which span a 5 week testing period would be available for staff and students, but would need to be administered by someone hired outside the district. The tests would not be required and students would need a signed permission form to be tested. Free testing and vaccinations are also available from the Gilpin County Health Department. During the back to school night, a vaccination clinic was offered with 13 parents and students age 12+ being vaccinated. There are plans to have another vaccination clinic during the parent teacher conference in mid-October for parents and students aged 5+.
In order to address individual student needs during a pandemic, in-person learning and CDLS online learning programs are available this year. The CDLS program is being augmented with two secondary and one elementary teacher who work with each online student at least twice a day to ensure growth and participation. High School principal Alexis Donaldson shared that five students in the Middle School and High School are full time CDLS, while the program is also being used by in-person learners through parts of the day. Simultaneous remote and in-person teaching by Gilpin teachers will only take place if and when there is a quarantine. Vaccinated students and teachers will not need to quarantine. Those who will not be quarantined will be determined by data available in the Colorado Immunization Information System (CIIS) statewide database, which has records of all vaccinations. The presentation of a vaccination card to continue in-person learning during a quarantine will also be an option if for some reason they are not in the database.
Elementary Principal Heather Huntoon shared that in the Elementary School zero students are on CDLS. With all elementary students learning in-person, she said that they are continuing with all safety measures like learning pods that help prevent cross-contamination. She noted that with the optional mask wearing she has noticed most teachers are wearing masks while working with small groups, but removing masks when instructing in front of the class so the students can hear better. In the high school, Principal Donaldson was happy to be able to interact with staff and students at a somewhat back to normal level. While they continue protocols, students are enjoying having lockers and masks being optional. Donaldson was excited that sports was up and running with games starting this week. She shared that High School Spanish teacher Ms. Henry resigned in August and thanked Ms. Ebers for stepping in to teach Spanish 2, while she will be teaching Spanish 1. Huntoon also shared that this year will be about leadership with the staff and students, with a greater emphasis on intrinsic motivation to make the right choice.
Dr. Dave shared information about the District Accountability Committee (DAC), which is charged with reviewing and giving input on teacher and principal effectiveness, nutrition and wellness, gifted and talented, and the school budget. DAC decided to add charges to their agenda to include; bully proofing, safe schools, and a calendar survey. DAC ultimately provides input and recommendations for the School Unified Improvement Plan submitted to the state.
Progress and completion has been made toward ongoing projects. The generator project by United Power has been delayed due to back-ordered parts. Dr. Dave said the electric company looks forward to a ribbon cutting ceremony sometime in September. United Power spent over $900,000 on the generator that will provide emergency power to the school and neighboring community at no extra cost. He shared that the school safety grant was completed on time by June 30th. The projects partly included adding cameras, electro-magnetic door stops that release automatically when there is an alarm, and safety corridor doors. Progress was made on the sewer pipe project study with a projected cost of $4.4 million, which was in line with previous estimates. The Black Hawk Central City Sanitation District on behalf of the school is applying for a 50/50 Tier 2 DOLA Grant for the project. The bleacher and sports/press box project was delayed over the summer for multiple reasons. The design team is still working on engineering and building the improvement with a hopeful goal of completion within the next 6-8 months.
School Board Vice President Sarah Swanson ended the meeting promptly at 8 pm, while Board President Steve Boulter, who was attending remotely, thanked everyone for their participation.
Gilpin County School Coed Cheerleaders were in three competitions during the school year. They received 2nd place Frontier League, 2nd place at the Shamrock Blast, and at the State level competition they placed 8th out of 26th teams in the CoEd competition.