New Trailblazer 6th grade seen as plus for Holmes

       District 11's plan to add an optional sixth grade at Trailblazer Elementary next year won't adversely affect Holmes Middle School - it should help it.
       So believes Holmes Principal Rob Utter, who is encouraged by a Trailblazer survey showing that a large majority of parents who plan to keep their students in sixth grade there next year would like to enroll them at Holmes for seventh grade.
       “I'm very much impressed by the extensive, detailed survey,” he said. “Looking at the parent responses, I feel comfortable that the change won't have a negative effect on Holmes because the following year more kids will be attending Holmes. So it won't be a negative, it will be a positive.”
       The Trailblazer plan, approved by the Board of Education in late April, stemmed from a proposal in the consolidation/closure actions taken by the district last year. At that time, consideration was given to making the underutilized Mountain Shadows school a K-8. However, further studied revealed community and staff concerns about space and infrastructure (including parking, gym uses and lunch areas), according to a report presented to the school board.
       The school was built for 550 students, but current enrollment is 383, according to D-11 numbers. And, because of the geographical proximity to District 20's Eagleview Middle School - which is actually three miles closer to Trailblazer than Holmes is - 30 percent of the elementary's fifth-graders typically choose into the D- 20 school for sixth grade, district numbers show.
       “We want to retain those kids going to Eagleview,” Utter said.
       To help with the transition, he explained, the Trailblazer sixth-graders (about 17 are expected the first year) would be able to participate in Holmes after-school activities, “which would help create a tie to Holmes for their seventh grade year,” he said.
       Also being talked about is expanding a current program at Holmes to help with that seventh-grade transition. Called Where Everyone Belongs (WEB), the program uses eighth-grade mentors to help sixth-graders. “Now we will do that for seventh-graders,” Utter said.
       The only restraint, Utter noted, is a lack of buses between Trailblazer and Holmes. This would probably prevent that school's sixth-graders from participating in Holmes' regular-class activities such as band and orchestra. “The logistics would be hard to overcome,” Utter said.
       The D-11 track from Trailblazer goes to Holmes through 8th grade, then to Coronado High through 12th. Holmes is advertised to parents as a John Irwin School of Excellence winner and a “School to Watch” honoree, as well as for its pre-advanced placement (AP) focus, athletic and art opportunities and Gateway to Technology pre-engineering program. Coronado offers full AP, the CU Gold program (allowing college credits to be earned in high school), technology programs and athletics and arts possibilities.
       Trailblazer itself plans to offer a strong sixth-grade program, including a focus on foreign language and technology, according to information presented to the school board.

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