- Mapleton Public Schools
Mapleton’s enrollment continues steady climb!
When Tiffany Dragoo, director of Global Leadership Academy (GLA), joined the school in 2015, one of her goals was to have an enrollment waiting list. That seemed a bit lofty at the time. GLA was a PreK-12, and she remembers having only one class each for fifth and sixth grade, when she thought a healthy enrollment would have called for at least two.
“I was like, ‘I want our school to be the place where families bring their kids,’” she said.
Seven years later, she may achieve that goal. Now a high school, GLA is about at capacity for freshman and sophomores. Their junior class is growing, and for the first time, seniors are transferring in, instead of leaving for other districts, enough to warrant a second senior cohort. In each of the last couple years, GLA’s enrollment has increased by a third.
“We’re so happy we’re filling up and things feel like they’re clicking,” Dragoo said. “I think it will be a real sign for us we’re doing the right things when our freshman and senior classes are pretty close to the same size.”
The picture is similar across the district. Mapleton’s overall enrollment has trended slightly upward for the last decade at a time when so many other districts’ enrollment around Colorado and the country is fading. The official results of October Count won’t be known for another month, but administrators are expecting at least 140 more students than the year before. More than a third of all its students come from outside the district. Parents, students, and staff point to a number of factors as to why.
The first reason is likely the school choice system the district touts. Mapleton doesn’t have ‘neighborhood’ schools, but rather its families can choose from a robust menu of schools with different models, from ones that focus on STEM or project-based learning to others that concentrate on visual or performing arts. There is even a permanent, online option, Mapleton Online.
While the district was able to stay open during the pandemic, it was nimble enough to start Mapleton Online as an alternative program for families who were still concerned about their children’s safety. It taught roughly 1,800 students at its peak. An official K-12 school since May 2022, it now maintains a steady enrollment of about 200 students who, for a variety of reasons, prefer the online model to the brick-and-mortar option.
Small-by-design schools with a community family feel
Mapleton schools are all designed to be small, offering safe, family-like learning environments where teachers can build relationships with their students. Melanie Newton is a second-grade teacher at York International School (K-12), as well as a parent of three current or former students of the system. She liked that they didn’t feel like faces in a crowd that might slip through the cracks.
“I appreciate that at my daughter’s school she isn’t one of 2,000 students, so all of her teachers know her name and where she is academically,” Newton said. “Her teachers and coaches know her strengths and weaknesses and can help her find her path, and you don’t get that at bigger schools where she might be just a number.”
Eduardo A., a GLA senior, transferred into the district in seventh grade and feels the same way. Though his mother offered to move him to other schools a few times since then, he pushed back.
“The school is not the biggest, but I love that. I know almost every person in the building and feel supported,” he said. “I’m close with my teachers and it’s the sense of community that kept me here.”
Newton adds that, in addition to her daughters, her husband is a Mapleton graduate and her father-in-law taught at Mapleton years ago. She has also seen plenty of family’s journey through York.
“You really can find that a lot,” she said. “This really is a district of tradition and that’s why we chose to live here and send our daughters through.”
Precious Contreras is a parent of two Mapleton students and her family has been in the Mapleton community for 65 years.
“We had the opportunity to move schools, but we chose to stay here. We hope both our kids will graduate just like their grandmother graduated from the Mapleton district,” she said.
Traditional grade levels
Jessie Massey, director of Mapleton’s Trailside Academy, attributes her school’s popularity to several factors, from a warm, new building to a curriculum model focused on student interdependence. But she’s also heard parents say they brought their children to her school from other districts that use a competency-based education model. That model groups and teaches students based on their perceived level of mastery of a subject. Trailside is a PreK-8 and, like almost all Mapleton schools, has conventional grade levels like first grade, second grade, and so on.
“I think that is attractive to a lot of families who said they didn’t feel the other method challenged or supported their students sufficiently, and we are happy to offer them another choice,” she said.
Mapleton is home to 20 schools, but about half are found on two campuses, Broadway and Skyview, and other schools are in very close proximity. Dragoo knows one thing that really draws families to GLA, at Broadway, is that they can bring all their kids to one place, as Global Primary Academy (GPA) and Global Intermediate Academy (GIA) are little more than a stone’s throw away from each other. This saves parents and guardians from the headache of traveling miles to drop off and pick up their kids at multiple locations.
“We have siblings and even cousins that will go through all the schools. It’s a simple, but really appealing thing if you’re trying to find the best school situation for your whole family,” she said.
The latest and greatest resources and curriculum
Michell Ansley, Mapleton’s Chief Academic Officer, takes pride in the district’s overarching commitment to curricular course refresh.
“It’s a dedication to our kids that we have a multi-year plan and every year we have something new on the table to adopt to make sure our students have what they need to be successful,” she said. “We’re not going to let things go 12 or 15 years before reevaluating what we’re teaching, and I think parents recognize that.”
As one example, she points to an online math tool Mapleton just adopted to reinforce teachers’ efforts. The tool not only presents students with real-world situational problems to solve, rather than just equations on a worksheet, but also recognizes gaps in their learning. If a student shows enough difficulty with a certain math problem, the tool will take the student back as far as they need to go to refresh the needed skill.
Dragoo thinks academics ultimately played a large part in bringing more students to GLA and keeping them there. The school, as well as GPA and GIA, reinvented themselves after they split by adopting the International Baccalaureate (IB) school model, which offers students more challenging programs, rigorous assessment and accelerated courses to develop well-rounded students with a strong commitment to academic excellence and global-mindedness. GLA offers more advanced classes and concurrent enrollment, so kids can even earn college credit while still in high school.
“We’re not perfect, but we have so much room to still grow. It’s an exciting time,” she said.
And with state funds tied to enrollment, GLA and all other Mapleton schools will surely be able to find new ways to excite their students about learning, and excel.