Here are three things to take away from the June 10 meeting of the Buena Vista school board:
1 The board heard updates from three area non-profits focused on the well-being of children who provided suggestions for how the groups could work more closely with the school district.
Susan Shampine, the president of Mini-Blessings, gave an outline of the equine therapy organization, which helps children using miniature horses. While Mini-Blessings’ work with students in the district goes back to 2010, a Memorandum of Understanding signed with the district in 2017 formalized the partnership, Shampine said.
Groups of fifth grade students, selected by their teachers, go to Mini-Blessings for hour-long sessions.
“To work with them, you really have to work hard to develop trust. And for a lot of the kids who had problems in the home, who maybe were abused or neglected, developing trust is a really hard thing for them,” Shampine said. “If they can develop that trust, it’s amazing the change you see in the child.”
However, Shampine said that the sessions are not limited to special needs or at-risk youth. Teachers will intentionally put a diverse group of personalities into the sessions.
A survey of teachers found that 100 percent of the children who took part in the sessions benefitted in areas like cooperation, teamwork, leadership and respect, Shampine said.
Suggesting ways in which the school’s implementation of Mini-Blessings included longer sessions per day, starting the program sooner in the year, before the weather begins to turn from summer to fall.
Shampine also suggested a system of alternates, where children would have an opportunity to take part in the program in the event that regular riders could not make the sessions.
Next, Boys & Girls Club director Jennifer Wood described some of the behind the scenes work the club does to encourage children to pursue their interests.
Wood shared the example of one middle school student who was struggling with self-confidence. The group mentored the student to write a mini-grant to the Chaffee County Communities that Care Coalition to start a club-wide service day.
The $1,100 grant was awarded, Wood said, and funded a day that send kids to Sunrise Manor to play games with the residents there, GARNA to help with riverside cleanup and to various locations around town to help with trash pickup.
The activism bug seems to have stuck with the student, as Wood said he is now researching options in public policy around reducing vaping in Buena Vista.
Wood told the board that a memorandum of understanding with the district that would allow for easier information exchange “would help out a lot with behavior management, because I know a lot of the things we’re seeing are happening in the schools also.
“But that would also help from an academic standpoint, so we could really see how a child is struggling and support what strategies the school is implementing,” Wood said.
Finally, Liz Sielatycki, the leader of the Communities that Care Coalition, a project of the Department of Human Services through its Family and Youth Initiative prevention arm, spoke about the group’s efforts to change norms around substance use in the county.
Sielatycki said that drug use among Chaffee County youth was higher than average, and a major factor behind that was a permissive attitude towards substance use.
Sielatycki requested that the coalition be allowed to promote the statewide “Speak Now” campaign, which provides parents with ideas on how to talk about drugs and alcohol with their kids, at school events and for the school to promote the coalition’s vaping training.
2 District superintendent Lisa Yates told the board that the building of the new middle and high school was on schedule.
The steel skeleton of the two-story structure began to rise into the sky earlier this month, and Yates said the building will likely be enclosed by July.
3 BVHS sports teams will now be known as the Buena Vista Browns after a spontaneous, unanimous vote by the school board to change the school’s controversial Demon mascot. The monochromatic earth-tone helmets are in the mail. Nah, just kidding.
After a spirited discussion among residents on Facebook about whether the school’s sinister mascot was appropriate, one person, Pyra Intihar, delivered public comment at Monday’s meeting, arguing that the mascot violated the constitutional separation of church and state.
Also present during the meetings public comment period were a number of residents wearing Demon merchandise.
The board took no action, nor discussed among themselves the idea of changing the mascot.