Boulder School Choice Fair: A Race to Somewhere

Statistically, Boulder is a highly educated community.

As parents, and community wide, we demand that our kids have the best education possible, starting in preschool. That’s one reason we have excellent schools to choose from in the public Boulder Valley School District, as well as the private schools in the area.

Some would say Open Enrollment, put into effect by the Public Schools of Choice Act of 1990, is another reason our BVSD schools are excellent. This is based on the belief that BVSD schools, along with schools throughout Colorado, have strong motivation to be top notch when vying to retain students who live in their neighborhood attendance area.

In addition, Boulder citizens have consistently put their dollars behind BVSD schools, passing two bond issues in the last decade–$296.8 million in 2006 and another $576.5 million in 2014.

So Many Options

Choosing ‘the right’ school for your child is an activity many parents take very seriously—believing the right fit academically and culturally makes all the difference in the child’s success. Here in Boulder, there are a number of educational approaches to choose from, from Montessori to Waldorf or Core Knowledge.

Boulder School Choice Fair

With so much to choose from, the Daily Camera sponsors an annual School Choice Fair. This year’s event is Thursday, Jan. 8, from 3:30 to 6:30 at the Millennium Harvest House.

Many private schools will be present, as well as some BVSD schools. You can get more information here.

Currently, the Open Enrollment period for BVSD schools is in full swing. Applications are due by 4:00 p.m. on Jan. 16.

Private schools are also accepting applications and have their own enrollment deadlines and specialized educational offerings.

Staying in the Neighborhood

Many families feel strongly that going to school close to home is a key criteria. Attending your neighborhood school enables your children to easily walk or bike to school and build friendships with other children in the neighborhood.

Since environmental concerns are often heavily weighted, this is a priority for many Boulder families.

And, with highly regarded schools located throughout Boulder, you can hardly go wrong in your neighborhood public school, or in one of the many public focus or charter schools, or a private school.

Driven to Succeed

Top of mind for many choosing a school is the competitiveness of college admissions. According to the documentary film, “Race to Nowhere,” this results in a great deal of stress on students to excel in academics and extracurricular activities in high school, middle school—even in elementary school—in order to get into an ‘elite’ college.

Many students feel highly stressed, depressed, and lack sleep.

Several years ago, “Race to Nowhere” was shown at various locations in Boulder. It sparked a lot of discussion. It even possibly helped paved the pathway to acceptance when Boulder and Fairview High Schools pushed the school start time forward from 7:30 to 8:00 a.m.—giving high school students an extra half-hour to sleep on school days.

Boulder’s Race to Somewhere

Last spring, in a panel discussion of educational leaders in the Boulder Valley School District, Dr. Jan Hittelman, Director of Boulder Psychological Services, explored how BVSD can shift from the ‘nowhere’ level of pressures to fostering a Race to Somewhere.

As Boulder families make decisions over the coming weeks about which school is ‘best’ for their child, the panel discussion offers some key takeaways to take into consideration. You can view the entire discussion here.

Here are a few highlights:

  • “Attendance at elite institutions is over stressed. Students can receive a wonderful education at every college in this country, so we can relax on that a little bit.”- Andrew Tucker, Director of Counseling, BVSD
  • “ We’re swimming against a culture that is difficult to change. Parents think the more homework you have the more rigorous the school is.” School homework should be limited, but it is difficult for a school to do because of our competitive open enrollment environment.-Terry Gillach, Past-Principal Southern Hills Middle School, currently Interim Principal, Boulder High School
  • “Blended learning is definitely our future and the future of education where students are mixing their in-class time with online time and learning in both formats.” Andrew Tucker, Director of Counseling, BVSD
  • “The beauty of being in a comprehensive high school is taking advantage of arts, music and athletic programs as much as academics.” Kevin Brainey, Past-Principal, Boulder High School, currently Administrator at BVSD

Mr. Brainey pointed out that many students at Boulder High are highly motivated. The challenge for parents—and the Boulder community—is to not over-pressurize expectations, and give kids a chance to be kids.

For More Information

BVSD Open Enrollment

Boulder Source post on Open Enrollment

Boulder Source post on Boulder’s public Preschools, Elementary Schools, Middle Schools, High Schools

Daily Camera’s School Choice Guide

For more information on a local Montessori preschool, see our January Featured Friend spotlight on Boulder Montessori.



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