Having weathered the annual back-to-school rush that occurs each fall throughout the Platte Canyon School District, Superintendent Mike Schmidt took the time last week to discuss with The Flume current and future items of interest.

It was a busy summer for the district, and much of the work revolved around school security. The acquisition of school resource officers on each campus, and a myriad of other safety measures, topped the district’s lengthy list of summertime accomplishments.

In addition to SROs on every campus, keyless entry locks have been added to exterior doors and employees are now required use employee badges to gain entry at both PCSD campuses.

Administrators have updated communication devices and can actually lock and unlock doors remotely if necessary, also at both campuses. Administrators have been required to take two additional classes pertaining to incident management and overall school safety procedures.

Cameras and camera coverage have been improved at both campuses, and greater interior and exterior visibility will improve security district-wide. Finally, every local emergency response entity within the county has conducted thorough tours throughout all PCSD facilities, to increase familiarity and to be more prepared in the event they were needed on district grounds.

When asked if he felt a sense of relief, and if the extensive security upgrades over the summer gave him peace of mind, Schmidt responded in predictable fashion.

“Never,” Schmidt quipped. “I am pleased by the added layers of security we have implemented, and it comforts me to see the collaboration between so many entities to enhance our overall security. We are all happy about that. But I never have complete peace of mind.”

Extensive aesthetic and functional improvements were also made at all PCSD facilities over the summer. New carpet throughout the elementary and preschools, and the exterior painting of the high school, junior high and district offices were just a few of the many improvements completed.

“The board did a good job of stockpiling grants and managing funds to get those things done,” Schmidt said. “They have been very open and transparent with the public, and I think they felt the freedom to make those short-term improvements. Our folks in Facilities also did a great job overseeing these projects.”

The summer months are always a challenging time in terms of staffing for the upcoming academic year, as turnover is a natural occurrence and appropriate replacements must be found.

“Our new hires from about March through August were exceptional,” Schmidt said. “We were able to add a number of talented, dedicated people throughout the district. I was very pleased about that.”

Two new school counselors, a new principal at Fitzsimmons Middle School, and 10 new teachers district-wide highlighted new additions to the PCSD family over the course of the summer months.

Schmidt also praised the board and its members for helping to keep the district’s promise to staff regarding an increase in compensation. A considerable increase in salaries was recently approved for staff, and a new bonus program was also successfully implemented.

The new Academies Program is also in its first semester, and Schmidt says it has been enthusiastically received by students.

The Academies Program is an advanced learning series that is available to all students beginning with early high school at FMS, and permeating grades 9-12 at PCHS. The program consists of four academies: 1) Science, Technology, Engineering and Math; 2) Business and Global Studies; 3) Arts, Humanities and Performance, and 4) Health and Human Services.

Within each Academy, students choose to pursue a curriculum that is rigorous, career-oriented and relevant. The overall vision of the Academies Program is to “Provide exceptional, relevant educational experiences for all students leading to 100 percent of PCHS graduates demonstrating college and/or career readiness.

Itemized goals and features of the program include:

Provide to students the opportunity to increase the depth and rigor of their education.

Give students the freedom and flexibility to select which pathways they choose to experience and complete. This allows students to pursue their passions, creating increased student engagement.

Students can choose from 14 pathways that delve deeper into specific, yet complementary disciplines. Choices include a “Design Your Own” pathway.

Give structure to a common PCSD preK-12 mission for students.

Creates an additional structure through which students can demonstrate graduation proficiencies.

“This year will serve as a test run, or beta test for our Academies Program,” Schmidt said. “This program requires a shift in mindset for the district, and budgeting, staffing and programming doesn’t happen in a day. The concept has been very well received, though, by younger students, especially.”

The Academies Program, according to Schmidt, allows the district to use its smaller size as an advantage by offering carefully-tailored, individualized paths of study for students that larger districts are unable to provide. The program is also designed to assist career-bound students as well as college-bound students.

With regards to future plans and challenges, Schmidt was candid about significant changes that might occur concerning the relocation of facilities. When asked about the possibility that geographic locations of district facilities, specifically the high school, might change in the near, future, Schmidt indicated that such occurrences were indeed a possibility.

“I would be surprised if facility locations are not part of discussions in the relatively near future,” Schmidt hinted. “We will have to align our budget, facilities and staffing with our priorities, our values and our vision and see where that discussion leads.”

Upcoming elections for board members, and the implications of an existing but expiring bond, seemingly have relocation discussions in a holding pattern for now.

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