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New direction, new name for DOS

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A fresh start is in the works for Delta Opportunity School and the students it serves.

The alternative school was established to keep students from falling through the cracks -- to serve kids who don't fit the traditional mold and are in danger of dropping out of school. DOS helps those students get back on track with an individualized approach that moves them toward the ultimate goal -- their high school diploma. The main school is on the campus of Delta-Montrose Technical College, but the program is also offered in Paonia and Cedaredge.

Beginning this fall, Jay Ritter will serve as school principal. Kelly Scheid is the school counselor and Amelia Baldwin is a part-time instructor who also directs the Achieve Blended Learning Academy, which combines online curriculum with teacher-led instruction.

The three recently attended a school board work session to discuss changes to curriculum, structure and even the name of the school they say will give it a fresh start.

A strong foundation of the school has been community service, which they plan to carry forward with a class called community leadership. Students will be collaborating with the city to create and complete beautification projects in parks and open spaces.

The curriculum will embody a 30-15 schedule, with 30 days devoted to core classes of math, science, English and social studies. During the 10- to 15-day session, students will select a project that demonstrates their knowledge of core curriculum topics. As an example, Baldwin mentioned a student production that would portray how new legislation is adopted. Students could earn credit for both social studies and for theater arts.

The curriculum will also incorporate the Discovery program, which DOS staff discovered while researching options for at-risk students. They visited a couple of schools using this program, which focuses on the development of social-emotional skills. The program was designed for students who are struggling with academic, attendance and attitude problems.

During their visits to schools on the Front Range and in Grand Junction, they were repeatedly encouraged to change the name of the school to one that embodies the school's new direction.

The name they proposed, and which was approved by the school board, is Grand Mesa Choice Academy. They hope the new name will change the way the school is perceived by the students and by the community.

"We're embracing a new form of education, we're embracing a new way to teach our children and hopefully be more successful in our community, and we'd like this name change to be part of that," Baldwin said.

"We like the word choice because we really want our students to understand they make choices in their life and that's what gets them to where they are -- somewhere with consequences or somewhere with benefit," Ritter said. "The school didn't expel them; they made a choice not to behave appropriately or not get their work turned in."

Incorporating "Grand Mesa" recognizes the students being served in outlying

communities, while also conjuring up images of positive outdoor options available to the students.

DOS students put in a full day by lunchtime, then go to work, concentrate on community leadership projects or attend an after-school program if they don't have a job.

Baldwin said she realized that provides an opportunity for Achieve Blended Learning Academy to share instructional staff and classroom space. "A staff member for every subject would be great for our students," said Baldwin. In its second year, Achieve Blended Learning Academy had 10 students, including two who graduated. This fall enrollment is expected to more than double.

School board members suggested including both Grand Mesa Choice Academy and Achieve Blended Learning Academy on the new sign to be installed for Technical College of the Rockies, as the technical college will be known effective Aug. 9.

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