Cortez’s participation in April student testing expected to rise

School board also addresses safety items

Sam Green/The Journal

Students at Montezuma-Cortez High School, seen here in 2015, begin state assessment testing during the first week of April. Almost all students are expected to participate in the test this year. Enlargephoto

Sam Green/The Journal Students at Montezuma-Cortez High School, seen here in 2015, begin state assessment testing during the first week of April. Almost all students are expected to participate in the test this year.

State assessment testing begins next month for Cortez schools, and administrators are anticipating improved student participation on the tests.

“Our projection for PARCC testing is very high,” Superintendent Lori Haukeness told school board members at their meeting Tuesday.

PARCC, or Partnership For Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers, testing starts on April 6 for Montezuma-Cortez High School. Haukeness said fewer than five families have expressed interest in their children opting out of testing.

Cortez Middle School Principal Glenn Smith said nearly all his students will participate in the test.

Low participation at CMS and M-CHS, which has hurt the district’s standing on state accountability measures, according to school officials. With this year’s results, they hope to get a better picture of how students are progressing.

Board considers safety measuresAlso at Tuesday’s meeting, the board approved several measures relating to school safety.

A $32,480 capital reserve budget item was approved that will fund replacing 190 door handle and hardware sets in district buildings. The upgrade is required to meet accessibility and safety code compliance, according to Re-1 Facilities and School Safety manager Jamie Haukeness. Colorado state law requires door knobs that a staff member can quickly lock in the case of an emergency, he said.

An initial cost estimate for the door upgrades was more than $100,000, but maintenance staff members were able to get the price down significantly, Jamie Haukeness said.

The board also approved a $3,605 capital reserve budget item for protective film that will go over glass windows at Lewis-Arriola and Pleasant View elementary schools, as well as Cortez Middle School.

The film will prevent the glass from breaking, especially if a possible intruder were to try and break the windows, Lori Haukeness said. The Montezuma County Sheriff’s Office has agreed to donate security cameras for use at those buildings, she added.

Board calls for safe routesBoard members also approved a resolution supporting safe pedestrian and bicycle routes to M-CHS. The resolution didn’t include a specific route plan, but board members said there are safety issues along Sligo Street near the high school.

“This doesn’t ask the city to do anything specific ... but encourages them to consider safety,” board President Jack Schuenemeyer said.

Schuenemeyer and other board members said they would like to see bike lanes or other safety improvements on the way to the school, especially at the intersection of Sligo and Main streets.

Since Main Street – U.S. Highway 160 – is maintained by the Colorado Department of Transportation, that agency would share some responsibility with the city of Cortez on safety upgrades at the intersection.

An access control plan for the stretch of U.S. 160 that goes through town was adopted by the city of Cortez and CDOT last year, City Manager Shane Hale said Wednesday. The plan is a long-term vision for safety improvements and the layout of the road, but there is no timeline for when the plan will be implemented.

The plan includes the addition of bike lanes along the highway, including at the Sligo intersection, Hale said.

The city plans two projects near the school, Hale said. Cactus Street, which runs north to south just east of Wal-Mart, will be paved and extended south to Third Street.

Third Street runs along the north side of M-CHS, so extending Cactus Street will give students another school route, Hale said.

The access control plan includes a crosswalk across U.S. 160 near McDonald’s. That will include flashing signs that alert drivers to pedestrians, as well as a pedestrian refuge in the middle of the road, Hale said, adding that students cross the road to visit McDonald’s or Taco Bell for lunch.

“That’s directly related to student safety,” Hale said. “It will give students a safe place to cross.”

Lunch prices increaseAlso at the meeting, board members authorized a school lunch price increase.

The elementary school lunch price will increase from $2 to $2.25. Secondary lunch prices will go up from $2.25 to $2.50, and adult lunch prices will increase from $3 to $3.50.

The price increase is mandated by the U.S. Department of Agriculture so that the amount paid for meals is closer to their actual cost, Nutrition Services Manager Sandi Vanhoutean wrote in a report to the board.

The price increases will only affect students who do not qualify for free or reduced lunches, which is about 35 percent of students, Vanhoutean wrote.

At the meeting, Re-1 Finance Manager Carla Hoehn said Vanhoutean did the best she could.

“(The increase) is mandated, but Sandi did the bare minimum amount,” Hoehn said.

jacobk@the-journal.com