LONGMONT — Despite parents’ fears about sending their kids to Heritage Middle School, enrollment at the school remains high, and the expected exodus of students open-enrolling at newly built Trail Ridge Middle School has not materialized.
Debate over boundary changes at the end of the last school year turned ugly as parents on both sides of the issue accused each other of racism and elitism or expressed concerns about Heritage being sub-par academically and rife with gangs and violence.
When the school board made its decision to filter Columbine, Fall River and Rocky Mountain elementaries into Trail Ridge — and Alpine, Spangler and Loma Linda elementaries into Heritage — Alpine parents stormed out of the meeting, swearing they would do everything in their power to not send their children to Heritage.
Heritage principal Mark Spencer said many people predicted his school would be a ghost town when classes started in the fall, with maybe 300 students left out of a former enrollment of 800. But the school already has about 500 students signed up.
Valerie Millert, the principal at Trail Ridge, said, “We’re almost exactly where we thought we would be.”
The district predicted the school would open with 465 students. As of a week ago Thursday, the school had about 457 students enrolled.
“We’re picking up kids from a number of different schools. The only middle school that is closed to open enrollment is Coal Ridge Middle School,” Millert said. “Kids are having a lot of choices, which is kind of cool.
“We were supposed to get about 200 Heritage kids, but we’re up to about 70 of them,” she added.
Spencer said he believes that students are staying at or choosing to attend Heritage because of all the new programs being offered there this year, including Jump Start, which offers students 12 extra days of reading, writing and math instruction during the summer, and the middle school version of the International Baccalaureate program, which begins Wednesday.
The school has had tremendous response to its IB program. Administrators had planned to host two IB classes in sixth grade and one each in seventh and eighth grades, but Spencer said Heritage already has had to add additional IB classes in seventh and eighth grades.
“We have about 50 students per grade, two classes per grade,” Spencer said. “That’s more than we expected.”
He said most of Heritage’s sixth- and seventh-
graders had the option to move to Trail Ridge, but “they have indicated they will stay for seventh and eighth grade. They are happy here and successful here. They’re not scared. It was not their choice to leave.”
Spencer and Heritage’s teachers hope the academic rigor and excellence fostered by the IB program will bring up student achievement for all students, even those who are not enrolled in the program.
“The IB program impacts the entire school,” said Don Haddad, executive director for secondary instruction. “It impacts kids who are not directly enrolled in it and teachers.”
He said that when “we expect things out of kids, it raises the bar in the entire school. People become focused on achievement, and kids believe academic achievement matters.”
Haddad was principal of Niwot High School when it implemented its International Baccalaureate program.
“Any kids who are willing to work hard can be successful in our program,” Spencer said. “If they are willing to stay and work hard, they can be there. If they are struggling and it is hard for them and they want out, I will allow a few to opt out if they are over their heads.”
Paula Aven Gladych can be reached at 303-684-5211 or email@example.com.