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Honing our educational pathways
Tony Byrd

The time is right now to dream big and deliver on educational experiences that will catapult students in Summit County into post-secondary options that will ultimately benefit the county, the state, the country and the world. The workforce needs students who are courageous, curious, globally-minded, growth-oriented and prepared — academically, socially, emotionally and financially — and we can do just that in the Summit School District. As one of only two school districts in Colorado with a AAA bond rating and an exceptional staff, we are in a great position to make this happen.

Students have told me directly that they want more choice in their learning, they want more hands-on experiences and they want to be integrated into the workforce through internships in high school. In short, they do not really want to sit down in class all day long, and — frankly — I would not want to either. We also know that education is moving beyond just sitting in a traditional classroom setting and students access whole new levels of creativity, deep understanding and critical thinking when they are given hands-on experiential opportunities. Community leaders in this county have also told me directly they want to work with our students.

While I would love to say this is a brand-new idea, it is not. Countries around the world and states around this country are on a mission to “blur” the lines between high school, post-secondary and the workforce.

Our staff has traveled to Littleton, St. Vrain, Canon City , and Durango to see the great work these school systems are doing to create powerful hands-on, career-connected learning experiences for their youth and in partnership with their local communities. It is time for us to do the same.

We launched a survey this fall/winter and shared it throughout the community, with parents, with staff and with students. That survey defined career paths that have many high wage/high demand jobs and asked participants to rank the future-ready pathways you would like to see in our schools. There were remarkable similarities across the groups and in aggregate you landed on these priority areas for the students of Summit County: health sciences; business/marketing/entrepreneurship; computer science; advanced manufacturing and engineering; skilled trades; and natural resources/outdoor leadership.  

To make these pathways a reality for students, we need safe school environments, well-maintained buildings, exceptional learning spaces and great teachers. This is why we have started sharing our ideas for a potential bond in the fall of 2024. This bond would specifically prioritize safe and high quality learning environments that would prepare students for a future that is often undefined through the development of the future-ready pathways identified above. In order to make this work, and as I am sure nearly all employers know well, we need more and more housing for our staff — another big piece of this potential bond.

The Summit School District Board of Education will make a decision around a bond question in late summer. Between now and that time, we will be providing you many opportunities to chime-in on what you would support. I will also be touring our schools and communities to share and gather input directly.

As I come to the end of my 30th year in education, I can say with great confidence that we have an opportunity in front of us to provide a world class education for our students and to be a significant pride point for the Rocky Mountain communities of Colorado. There is so much talent here — inside and outside the district — and so much will to do right by all students. Thank you for considering these thoughts and this future, and I look forward to learning more from you and with you in the months and years ahead.