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Will Modern Skyview Campus, Choice Set Stage for Mapleton Academic Success?

Yesterday I shared some thoughts about how a growing Brighton district with some crowded schools might find some creative solutions to its problem. While securing safe, functional and adequate facilities is a high priority for some school districts, others can bask gratefully in their new quarters and hopefully focus even more on the mission of educating students.

Which brings us to another part of Adams County. Not every school district will be able to do what Mapleton has created with its colorful, new state-of-the-art Skyview Campus. On September 27, some of my Education Policy Center friends received a tour of the creatively-designed campus from superintendent Charlotte Ciancio and human resources officer Damon Brown.

(from L to R): Brown, Raaki Garcia-Ulam, Ben DeGrow, Pam Benigno, Ciancio

The Skyview Campus has not been built without some controversy, as Mapleton’s contractor Neenan Co. was also a big contributor to the local matching-grant bond campaign. David Olinger and Eric Gorski’s in-depth Denver Post story from earlier this year shows how much the decision to hire a school construction contractor can be as much about politics and public relations as it is about bricks and mortar.

Mapleton is a geographically small district in north suburban Denver, about half the size of Brighton. It is designed as an all-choice district, where students opt in to schools with different program themes. At the elementary and middle school level the choices include expeditionary learning, Montessori, and back-to-basics. Some schools are configured as K-6, others as K-8.

The Skyview Campus houses three high school academies and one K-8 school:

  • Mapleton Expeditionary School of the Arts (MESA): learning is “organized around compelling, inquiry-based learning expeditions” and a strong emphasis is provided on “service learning and character development”
  • Mapleton Early College: a Big Picture Learning school that also allows students to earn college credit and to access “real-world learning through professional internships”
  • Skyview Academy High School: a STEM school that especially with its new facilities gives students a lot of opportunities to dive deeply into science and engineering courses
  • Clayton Partnership School: the combination elementary-middle school is built around teacher training and collaboration and 21st Century learning objectives

In all cases, it’s clear how the well-thought details of the new facilities enhance the vision and philosophy of each school environment. How that translates into academic success is a work in progress. The latest results on the state’s School Performance Framework show that, with the exception of the Early College, the schools on the Skyview Campus are in need of improvement in academic achievement and closing academic “growth gaps.”

There’s no doubt that the ability to choose and the well-intentioned, state-of-the-art physical environment has greatly enhanced the potential to succeed. The hard work still is done by the students, teachers and principals in the trenches.