Buena Vista to present 6th-grade plan to school board

       This spring, District 11 suggested - and then quickly withdrew (in response to some parent and staff objections) - a plan to add a sixth grade to all the Westside schools.

Annine Sanders (white shirt) and classmates look at some of the panels for the nine-panel mural that was later mounted. Other art hanging in the hallway (not shown) are strings of origami cranes that students have been making as part of a fundraiser for Japan's earthquake and tsunami victims. According to Sunny Murphy, a parent who has been working with the students on the project, the goal of $1,000 from donations and crane sales is on the verge of being achieved.
Westside Pioneer photo

       Buena Vista Elementary parents and staff, on the other hand, think having a sixth grade would be perfect for their school's Montessori program.
       There's even been perfect support for it. A recent online survey of parents at the 160-student school (in grades K-5) attracted 68 respondents, and all were in favor.
       In releasing those numbers this week, Principal David Brilliant added his own opinion: “I'm fully in support of going in that direction.”
       On top of that, a meeting last week at the school, attended by 30 to 40 families, showed a “very positive response, from what I saw,” he said. “There was a lot of excitement and interest in moving forward with this.”
       The school has been working with district staff on a presentation/request that will go to the Board of Education May 11.
       Brilliant explained that in the classic Montessori model, sixth grade is part of what's known as upper elementary. Currently at Buena Vista, “Upper El,” as it's known, consists of grades 4-5. So if the board approves the school's request, Upper El would become 4-6.
       The school also surveyed parents about a more distant possibility, one that's been raised by a few parents, which is to expand Buena Vista to include a middle school. That idea was nearly as popular in the online survey as the sixth-grade proposal, drawing 98.5 percent in favor out of 65 survey respondents, Brilliant said.
       Because it's late in the year, many parents of current BV fifth-graders have already made plans as to where they'll place their students for the 2011-12 school year. But Brilliant said he expects up to a dozen students would stay at his school for sixth grade in 2011-12.
       No new teacher would have to be hired. He said there would be room to add them in one of the two current grade 4-5 classes that has about 20 students now.
       The school is growing in other ways as well. BV has four preschool classes and plans to add a fifth one in the fall.
       Since Fall 2009, when it moved to its current location inside the former Washington school at 924 W. Pikes Peak Ave., Buena Vista has been a school without an attendance area, with all its students there by choice. According to D-11 statistics from two months ago, students come to BV from 21 different attendance areas inside the district, plus 36 students from outside D-11.
       In other BV news... A new mural, created by students in the school's Art Club, has been mounted in the front hallway. After learning some style points in recent months from artist/parent/volunteer Chris Alvarez, the students came up with their own colors and designs for panels that offer (sometimes in a subtle way) all the letters in the alphabet and the numbers 1 through 10.
       “The kids did all the work,” he said. “I just touched it up here and there.”
       The suggestion for the work came from Principal David Brilliant. The location of the mural is where students often line up in the hallway, so they can refresh themselves on letters and numbers while they wait, Alvarez noted. He added that the panels allow the mural to be changed out every year, if so desired.
       The new creation is being placed over a previous mural, probably from the 1990s, that included the declaration: “Our dreams can come true if we have the courage to pursue them.”

Westside Pioneer article