Parents, teachers start ‘Save Buena Vista’ effort

       Faced with the possibility of its school closing and its Montessori program being relocated within District 11, several Buena Vista Elementary parents have formed a save-the-school committee.
       A petition asking the district to keep the school open now has “600 signatures and rising,” according to spokesperson Kristen Downs.
       “We don't want it to move,” she said. “The neighbors fought for it as a Montessori school.”
       Committee members have also gathered funds from parents and teachers to print flyers and advertise the school in local newspapers, she said; and, parents and students recently stood outside a local grocery store, seeking support from shoppers.
       “Our goal is to raise awareness of the school,” said Downs, a Crown Hill Mesa resident in the Midland attendance area who has used the district's “choice” option to enroll her two school-age children at Buena Vista. “Money has been spent for teacher certification, but no money has been spent to market the school.”
       Buena Vista is among several Westside schools that have been tentatively targeted for closure, consolidation or change of scope based on a district study that seeks greater educational efficiency. A report to the District 11 Board of Education is scheduled in February.
       This is the fifth year of Montessori being transitioned into Buena Vista. It is the only elementary in the district offering the educational philosophy - otherwise it's available for a fee at some private schools - which emphasizes hands-on learning, letting children progress at their own pace and strong parental involvement. Just two “traditional” classes (in grades 3 through 5) remain at BV.
       The Montessori idea grew out of the Westside Task Force several years ago, which recommended educational “magnets” in the small Westside schools to reverse dropping enrollment trends.
       This has worked to some extent at Buena Vista. Enrollment was dipping close to 150 before Montessori, and now, according to Downs, it's at 208. Of these, 94 permit in from elsewhere in D-11 and 27 from outside the district, she said. The remainder come from the Buena Vista attendance area.
       Academic performance is also a factor in the district analysis. A puzzlement at Buena Vista has been that, despite the infusion of children with motivated parents, the school's academic levels have not shown noticeable improvement in the annual Colorado Student Assessment Program (CSAP) testing. One concern has been the school's turnover in principals (David Brilliant, in his first year, is the fourth since Montessori started). The school is still listed as “Average” from the testing last spring - as it has been for the past five years - according to the recent Student Accountability Report (SAR) that analyzes CSAP data.
       Downs noted one positive point, that Buena Vista's minority students tested better. In the one CSAP category (math) in which Buena Vista had a minority test result (Hispanics only), there was an improvement from 44 percent proficient and advanced in 2007 to 56 percent in 2008.

Westside Pioneer article