District starts school year with new configuration

Oak Creek-based district moved sixth-graders to South Routt Elementary

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— The final weeks of summer vacation were starting to wear on South Routt Elementary School second-grader Eric Tolliver.

Lucky for him, classes began Wednesday at South Routt schools.

"I've been waiting a long time to get back to school," said Tolliver, 7. "I was just getting bored."

In addition to the first day of classes, Wednesday also marked the first day for the district's new configuration.

Declining student enrollment and a desire to stop spending from its reserve funds forced the Oak Creek-based district to eliminate two teaching positions and its middle school principal position. To compensate for the losses, the district moved sixth-graders to South Routt Elementary in Yampa, where a recent school expansion provided the necessary classrooms for the switch.

Seventh- and eighth-graders remain on the middle school campus, which is adjacent to the high school. High school Principal James Chamberlin will be assisted in his added administrative duties by part-time dean of students and part-time social studies teacher Andy Davenport.

Elementary school Principal Troy Zabel said the new configuration was done in a way that addresses many of the concerns of parents and teachers.

The school's two sixth-grade classes will switch back and forth between teachers for their core subjects, and the school is offering exploratory subjects as well. The goal is to provide an environment of individualized instruction with transition pieces to help prepare the sixth-graders for their move to middle school next year, Zabel said. The school also will set up a student council for the older pupils, who will organize school events.

"I think it's gong to be really successful," Zabel said. "The first day has been great."

After teaching first and second grades for many years, Ellen Bonnifield made the switch to sixth grade, where she will teach geography, language arts and art.

"It's fun because I've had most of these students before," Bonnifield said.

Julie Hoff, who previously taught sixth grade at the middle school, is the elementary school's other sixth-grade teacher. Hoff will teach math, science and health.

The district made sure to provide a different experience for its sixth-graders than what is provided at lower grade levels, Hoff said.

"The kids seem happy to have it this way, and the parents seemed pleased, too," she said.

Chamberlin said he was pleased with the way things started off at the high school.

"I've been really encouraged by the teachers' and the students' enthusiasm," Chamberlin said. "It was a real positive, organized first day."

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