Summit County welcomes students back on first day of school
FRISCO — Welcome back to school, kids. Summit Middle School and Summit High School opened the 2020 school year Wednesday with other Summit School District schools to follow. As students shake off the last of the summer idleness, the school district and its teachers look forward to another productive year.
Elementary students from grades one to five will start school Thursday, Aug. 22, and kindergartners start Thursday, Aug. 29.
One of the big changes in the school district this year is the hiring of a new principal at Summit High School. Principal Tim Ridder comes to Summit after serving as principal for Lucile Erwin Middle School in Loveland for three years. Before that, Ridder was principal of Lake County Middle School in Leadville. He replaced Drew Adkins as Summit high principal after Adkins was hired as the school district’s new chief operating officer this year.
“I am truly honored to join such a great community of learners at Summit High School,” Ridder said. “We have a wonderful staff dedicated to ensuring that every student who attends our school is better at the end of every period, every day and every year.”
Silverthorne Elementary School also has a new principal. Louise Wacaser takes the reins from outgoing principal Joel Rivera. Before taking charge of Silverthorne Elementary, Wacaser was assistant principal at Acres Green Elementary School in Littleton. Wacaser had a decade of experience in special education before moving into administration.
Focus on academic gains
Some schools are making strides to extend previous academic gains. In the 2018-19 school year, Summit’s middle school students met or exceeded state averages for nearly every subject area and grade, with the exception of sixth grade math.
Summit Middle School principal Greg Guevara attributed the test scores to an environment that fosters both academic and social/emotional growth. Looking forward to the new school year, he wants his students to use middle school as a way to discover new subjects and activities to learn and love.
“We are continually working on getting students to try new things,” Guevara said. “We want them to try new activities, new sports and find things to get involved in after school. For 11-, 12- and 13-year-olds, it’s a great time to go out and try cross-country or basketball or speech and debate. We want them to make connections with other people, explore interests and find things they enjoy, or move on from things they don’t.”
Another school administrator working on continuing to improve recent successes is Breckenridge Elementary principal Khristian Brace. Brace said “Breck El” met or exceeded the state averages in every grade and every content area last school year. That includes elementary math, where the district is seeking improvement overall.
Brace said Breckenridge Elementary saw the most improvement with its school performance framework score from the state’s Department of Education, which assesses schools and school districts on their overall performance and academic growth. Brace said Breckenridge Elementary went from scoring 63.3 on last year’s assessment to 85.8 this year, and attributed the 25% performance increase to an environment that makes students feel valued and welcomed.
“We have focused a tremendous amount on a positive school culture, where they feel safe and included,” Brace said. “We want to make sure that students are seen, valued and heard. We have done a lot of work on our STEM programming and provide rigorous, hands-on learning experiences for kids.”
Looking forward, Brace said her school is looking to “amp up” its International Baccalaureate programming as well as including more applied learning and outdoor education experiences for the students.
“We want students learning outside our walls, getting out into the community and into the real world,” Brace said.
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As the Summit School District prepares for all online instruction, adults are focusing their attention on the health and well-being of the students.