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Two Mapleton schools start year in different ways

Mapleton Public Schools welcomed students back on Monday, Aug. 14, and two of the district’s newest schools wasted no time getting back to business.

Erick R., a 7th grade student at the Performing Arts School on Broadway (PASB), was a little surprised at how his school year began. Less than two hours in, he was helping design a small model of a throne that will guide what students will build for a real stage production in the fall.

Students design a paper throne

“I thought the first day would be a little less energetic. I thought we would just maybe write something, but we are creating stuff, so it’s a really good thing,” he said.

His technical theater class will be tasked with building sets and props and managing lights and sound, among other responsibilities, for the play, using math and science to make it all happen. His 7th through 12th-grade school pairs rigorous academics with performing arts through an educational approach rooted in innovation, imagination, and intention. Now beginning its second year, the school’s enrollment has grown by about 50 percent since students left in the spring. It even added a new technical theater teacher to educate many of those kids.

“There’s definitely more kids in the room, learning about theater and learning THROUGH theater, so it’s really exciting,” said Gunnar Bettis, PASB’s new technical theater teacher.

Though he didn’t have a room full of students, Scott Graham, a high school science at Mapleton Online, said his first day looked very similar to an in-person school. He looked over the syllabus virtually with his pupils and gave them a quiz where they had to scavenge through their online resources to find answers.

Mapleton Online opened during the pandemic as a program and became an official school in May 2022. It offers flexibility through real-time, daily live classes with opportunities for students to access their instruction at their own pace outside of the traditional school day. Students are supported in becoming self-directed, independent learners, and have access to high-quality technology to support them at each level of their academic career.

Graham’s first day set the tone for how students will learn this semester. Together, they will bring the outside world in through their screens, like by visiting the National Park Service website to look at cameras in Yellowstone or analyzing earthquakes in the South Pacific through other sites.

“Online education is not for every student but for some students and teachers it works very well and is much preferable to being in person,” he said. “Mapleton has lots of small schools and models that are different in certain ways, and we’re one of them, but we still teach by standards, and cover the same material as in-person class with the same rigor.”

Abigail T., a Mapleton Online senior, said she prefers the online model.

“It can be hard for some people to focus when other people are around or deal with transportation issues by attending a school in person,” she said. “So, this definitely takes a lot of that stress away when you can roll out of bed and get to the computer in the comfort of your own home.”

Though very different in their methods, the staff and students at both schools are equally ready to get the year rolling.