Choice Fair empowers parents to explore every school under one roof
CASTLE ROCK – The Douglas County Events Center was bustling with activity last week, as hundreds of parents gathered to learn about the schools in the Douglas County School District during the second-annual Choice is For Kids Fair.
For one night, all 80 Douglas County schools were in one place, making it easy for parents to learn about the variety of cultures, programs and instructional models offered.
“I think this is fantastic,” said Douglas County parent Anthony Schwairy. “It helps the parents make a very informed decision on the perfect school for their child, because each child is different.”
Schwairy and his wife Jennifer say they are looking for the right fit for their daughter, who will be attending kindergarten next year.
“Our child is very warm and loving and caring and she is friendly and she is very mechanical-- I would say,” Anthony Schwairy said. “Once she is honed in on a specific activity that she likes, it will occupy her until she figures it out.”
“We are brand new at this,” added Jennifer Schwairy. “We don't know what we are doing and so it has been really helpful. This entire set up has been great because there are so many choices that are just right here at your fingertips and you can talk to anyone you're interested in speaking to. They can really guide you, direct you and give you the information you need.”
Principals, teachers and sometimes even students stood at tables, organized by regional areas of the District, ready to answer those questions and to share what makes their particular school stand out.
“I consider us to be a diamond in the rough. We are on the outskirts of Douglas County,” said Larkspur Elementary Principal Jen Oldham.
As she speaks with prospective parents, she shares how Larkspur Elementary offers Environment Integrated Content (EIC).
“Our motto is 'no child left inside,'” Oldham said.
The instructional model ties lessons to the natural world outside of the classroom. As part of the program Larkspur Elementary has even formed a partnership with the Stone Canyon Outdoor Edventures, Douglas County School District’s outdoor education facility. Regularly students have the opportunity to go to the camp to expand their studies and when that isn’t possible Stone Canyon staff members come to the school.
That option caught the attention of Vaughn Villarreal, who is looking for a learning environment that will fit his son, an incoming kindergartner.
“The EIC program is very interesting,” Villarreal said. “When you live in Colorado, it is such a scenic, beautiful state, why not take advantage of your state and enjoy it, right?”
He and his wife are specifically interested in the special education programming at each school.
“We're basically looking to see whether they have a good curriculum, what their learning styles are and based on that, seeing what is best for our children,” Villarreal said
“Parents are sometimes worried about whether students will still get the basics, [through the EIC model]. Yes, we still focus on the basics — the reading, writing and the math,” explained Oldham. “We still make sure that all the kids are on-grade level and meeting standards and meeting our Guaranteed and Viable Curriculum, but then add the creative part, which inspires students to learn and take it to another level.”
Down the aisle, there are a variety of other options, including a charter school that focuses on language integration.
“We are the newest charter school in Parker and it means a lot [to participate in the fair] because we are bringing in new clientele, new faces. We want to have kids come and see our schools,” said Dean of Students Jennifer Carmichael of Global Village Academy.
“We house three different languages at our school. We have Mandarin Chinese, French and Spanish to offer. If you're looking for language, you're looking for Global Village,” Carmichael added. “We have parents who want to foster their language at home. We also have parents like myself, where we have kids with no language experience.”
With 80 schools, there is something for everyone, even parents like Shane and Shaneen Karren, who are home schooling their children and were looking for educational and extra-curricular enrichment opportunities for their children in middle and high school.
“So we just saw this email come through today and we decided to come take a look and ask some questions of how our way of educating our children fits in with different options within Douglas County,” Shaneen Karren said.
“[The fair is] crazy efficient,” added Shane Karren. “We were here for 30 minutes and we got questions answered that we have been researching and looking at for months.”
Parents that did not have the opportunity to attend this year’s Choice is for Kids Fair can find a lot of those answers in our new EmpowerED Choices tool. It provides families with an ability to virtually “meet” schools, getting all of the pertinent facts and figures. Plus, videos provide parents with the ability to get a taste of what it is like to attend to the school.
DCSD’s first open enrollment window is open until January 5. CLICK HERE for the EngagED Parents Open Enrollment app.