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Roaring Fork keeps students in its halls

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Enrollment is up at Roaring Fork High School (RFHS) and the new administration is welcoming the influx with open arms. Lyn Bair, RFHS’s Principal, and Zoe Stern, Assistant Principal, are determined to keep students’ interest up and provide a top notch education for every young person they can.

Let’s take a look at the numbers, of which there is no shortage on the Colorado Department of Education (CDE) website, with per-district enrollment counts dating back to 1995. According to the CDE, 5,311 students were enrolled in Roaring Fork School District in the fall of 2008 compared to 5,455 in 2018. This increase is not unprecedented. In 1995 there were 4,688 students enrolled in the District and by 1999 the count increased to 4,844.

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In 2008, RFHS was sitting at 321 students. The most recent official count in the fall of 2018 saw an increase to 374 students. Although this year’s count is not yet official, Bair indicated that enrollment is up yet again stating, “a couple of weeks ago we were at 390 [students].”

Looking at the data, RFHS is seeing fewer students transfer to other schools. The CDE shows that RFHS saw 35 transfers in the 2017-2018 school year (the most recent available) compared to 146 in 2007-2008. Clearly there has been a significant decrease in transfer rates. 

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According to Superintendent Rob Stein there “doesn’t seem to be anything in the enrollment patterns at the school that reflect programmatic choice.” In other words, overall RFHS students are happy with the program options offered at their school.

Bair is proud to say that RFHS offers “some amazing sports programs” and the school has one of “the best traditions of the major high schools in our District.” The soccer program is presently very successful and attracts a lot of young local athletes. Other popular sports programs include baseball, basketball, women’s lacrosse, softball, track and field, volleyball and others.

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There is not currently a Varsity football team, but Bair would love to see it come back. The reason for its absence is purely lack of interest: not enough students are signing up for the football program to warrant both Junior Varsity (JV) and Varsity teams. Currently there are around 18 players on the JV football team and they each get lots of playing time.

The Band Program is one of many popular electives at the school. The school works with Jazz Aspen to bring professional musicians to work with the band students. There is also a flourishing Drama class that puts on impressive performances. If a student wants to be a rockstar when they grow up they can take Marcia Kuhlman’s guitar class. The options for students at the school are bountiful and they do not have to go searching elsewhere to find their niche.

While upped enrollment is a sign that the school is doing their job to keep students in their halls, it coincides with an associated issue: larger classes. The school incorporates several strategies to address this matter.

Large classes concern teachers because it can become difficult to meet every student’s individual academic needs. Teachers will use a strategy known as “scaffolding” where they use tiers in a lesson plans to accommodate various academic levels within the classroom. Larger classes  may require more tiers.

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There are teachers’ aides and paraprofessionals who provide backup in some of the larger classes. Teachers aides are upperclassmen who must apply for the position and are proficient in the subject area. Teachers aides go through a training process and are expected to support students academically within the classroom.

Teachers also run the “resource room” where during the school day students can receive additional “one on one” academic support. Furthermore, at the end of each day there is “access time” where all teachers are in their classrooms and available to students and parents.

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Bair was quick to point out that last year’s junior class had the highest SAT scores in the District. Bair further boasted that RFHS had the highest “growth scores for our English language learners.” Bair accredits good teachers and committed students with these successes.

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