Mapleton Public Schools debut two innovative schools

  • It’s a little hard for Ryan T., a second grader at the new Valley View Innovation School, to narrow down what he is most excited about this year on his first day of school. He rattles off a few amenities the building features that his last school, in another district, didn’t have, like a basketball court and a climbing gym. One thing he is sure of is where he wants to enjoy his lunch.   

     

    “I know exactly where I’m going to sit in the cafeteria,” he said. “There’s a bench that’s really comfortable. It feels like a nest.” 

     

    While the long, plush blue seats are softer than the wood planks many adults might remember dining on when they were young, Ryan might be in for a surprise about the other choices he will have this year or longer. 

     

    Funded in part by a more than $17 million Building Excellent Schools Today (BEST) grant from the state of Colorado, the PreK-8 Valley View Innovation School opened for business on August 15, 2022. It replaced its predecessor, Valley View, which closed in 2019 after serving students for 60 years. 

     

    “It’s exactly what kids need in this day and age,Antoinette Booth, the school’s director, said of her new school. Its not about the facts anymore. Its about how to learn and the soft skills, collaboration, thinking and problem solving, and this school is perfectly designed for that.” 

     

    Valley View is the first school in the district designed around project-based learning (PBL), a teaching method where students gain standards-based skills and knowledge through projects that mimic undertakings they might conduct in the real world someday. A single project could involve writing a business plan, building a robot and producing an infomercial to sell a product. And each step will be realized in one of the school’s six immersion studios,” spaces set up to support deep dives in areas like science, music, or even broadcasting.

     

    Booth said parents have told her this is nothing like the schools they went to, but that they were very excited for the opportunities it will provide their kids.  

     

    Just a mile down the road, Cobe K., a ninth grader new to the district, was equally impressed with the Performing Arts School on Broadway on its opening day. He said he was in awe when he first saw it during a recent Back to School Night event.   

     

    “I saw the backrooms during the tour, and I was in Lalaland because it actually looked like a working actor’s set, but even better than some I’ve seen,” he said. “I have not seen a downside so far and know this is the school for me.” 

     PASB first day of school

    The new school, for grades 7-12, pairs rigorous academics with performing arts. Throughout the year, every student will receive instruction in theater, dance, music and technical theater, regardless of their specialty. Traditional curriculum courses, like math or social studies, are still taught at the same standards, but through a performing arts lens. For instance, students will learn geometry by designing stages and sets. Humanities teachers connect historical periods to dramatic performances and writing. 

      

    While the school addressed a desire of many students to focus more of their time in performing arts, and possibly train for a future in them, the school’s director, Jackson Westenkow, said the skills they will learn, such as communication and leadership, will prepare them in many chosen paths.  

     

    This will definitely set them up for careers in the arts, but they will learn to communicate messages, problem-solving by building productions from beginning to end, not to mention the confidence they will gain by creating something and then putting it to the public,” he said. Those are the things we’re focused on that will be essential to our students wherever they go after school.”  

     

    Westenkow said he was nervous for the first day but was encouraged by how well his students responded to a song his staff performed. The teachers sang the opening number from Hamilton: An American Musical with a modified line, There's a million things we haven't done, but just you wait."