Summit School District recognizes 2 elementary schools for achievement, community involvement

Dillon Valley and Silverthorne boost school rating status, highlight student and community engagement

A sign showing appreciation to the teachers at Silverthorne Elementary School is attached to a fence on May 6, 2020. The elementary school, which has grown in population size since then, was recognized by district leaders for its academic improvement and community engagement during a Sept. 21, 2023 Summit Board of Education meeting.
Jason Connolly/Summit Daily News archive

Two Summit School District elementary schools were recognized for their efforts to improve academic performance and community engagement on Thursday, Sept. 21, during a Summit Board of Education meeting . 

Preliminary school performance framework data from the Colorado Department of Education shows Dillon Valley Elementary and Silverthorne Elementary both improved in their school rating status. 

Dillon Valley moved from “improvement” to “performance plan,” the highest rating for a school, while Silverthorne moved from “priority improvement” to “improvement.” 

“Both Silverthorne and Dillon Valley, you have amazing schools. It takes a lot of hard work, and I think shining lights on bright spots is really important to change,” said Superintendent Tony Byrd, who added there’s “a lot of pressure on those improvement plans.”

The results come as the district as a whole sees both success and a need for improvement in its academic performance after recent test score data showed mixed results. 

Elementary school leaders also highlighted ongoing efforts to further engage in their communities as well as school programs and events that they say are having a positive impact. 

“Fourth grade seems to be a very globally aware group, they’ve already taken on multiple actions,” said Dillon Valley Elementary Principal Marci Briones. 

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Briones shared recent initiatives by the school’s fourth grade class that include raising more than $800 in one single day for victims of the Maui wildfires and starting a trash pick-up club. 

As one of two elementary schools in the district running a dual-language program, Dillon Valley continues to put an emphasis on bilingual education. Half of all classes are taught in English while the other half are in Spanish. 

According to Briones, teachers also engage in an intervention and extension program where, for 30 minutes each day, students are separated based on their native language to practice instruction in what may be their second or third language. This allows teachers to identify students who may need extra support or who are performing at grade level, in which case they could get extended education beyond what is expected. 

Cultural awareness remains a cornerstone of Dillon Valley, which is kicking off El Grito: a fun run with cultural presentations, food and dancing, in celebration of Central and Latin American countries. Roughy 40% of the district’s student body is Spanish-speaking. 

To that end, Briones added, she is proud that the school has four teachers who are both Summit County natives and bilingual. 

“We love recruiting international teachers, it brings such a great environment or ambiance to our school,” she said. “But we’re also super proud that four of our staff members grew up in the county.” 

At Silverthorne Elementary, Principal Louise Wacaser said the school is experiencing a growing population. This year, the school was just one of three in the district that saw enrollment growth, according to preliminary district data.

Wacaser touched on new and expanding programs, such as its outdoor education program which promotes bike to school days, outdoor recreation events and a recent bike giveaway for students. 

This year also marks the second that Silverthorne has been a dual-language school for all grade levels and Wacaser said there has been greater community representation on the parent-teacher-student association. 

Attendance rates have improved, sitting at 92% and above this year, and parent involvement also remains high, with 97% or more of all parents attending conferences, according to Wacaser.

Wacaser also credited the school’s movement from to improvement status in part to its emphasis on literacy for both English and Spanish speakers. 

“We have a schoolwide focus on literacy in both languages, and that’s what our instructional practices work on. We want all kids working at their potential, working at grade level or above,” Wacaser said. 

Board member Johanna Kugler praised the school’s commitment to increasing representation in its outreach and engagement. 

“You have more community partners and people reaching out to you saying, ‘How can we get involved.’ You have more parents involved in your (parent-teacher-student association) that are reflective of your school,” Kugler said. “I really want to applaud you for making sure that you’re looking at all different layers of getting people involved.”

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