| VailDaily.com

AVID graduates are avid about improving their lives

The walk across the commencement stage is the same distance for everyone. The road leading to it is longer and tougher for some.

Erin Park and Sam Bartlett get that. They teach Advancement Via Individual Determination classes, more commonly known as AVID — a program that helps students who are motivated to go to college and beyond but need someone to light the way. Some didn’t know English when they arrived in Eagle County. Most are the first in their families to consider college.

“They knew they had to work to make things better. They couldn’t just wait for things to get better,” Bartlett said.

Working toward their dreams

AVID is a system. Like most successful systems, it works if you work it, Bartlett said, adding that “work” is the operative phrase.

“You need to find the right kids who show determination and are willing to make some sacrifices,” Bartlett said.

The AVID program recruits students who are motivated and serious about their academic futures. The class helps provide the skills needed to be successful with the ultimate goal of attending college.

Park said their goals and dreams are like most graduating seniors’ — aiming toward careers in things like engineering, business, nursing, medicine, the U.S. Marines …

In Eagle County Schools, AVID classes can start as early as sixth grade. The students stay with it as they enter high school. The class and their teachers stay together four years. Park and Bartlett have been with this year’s classes since the students were freshmen.

“It allows teachers to build relationships. Once you build that relationship you can help them stay on the right path,” Bartlett said.

Once they’re in they have to meet certain criteria, including grade point average and good behavior.

“We say they have to act like an AVID student. Their teachers should know who they are,” Park said. “Throughout the last four years, I have witnessed this incredible group of students evolve into a family.”

Some students start with the AVID program in sixth grade and stay with it through high school. Students need to show some drive. If they don’t have that drive or are a problem, they can derail others, Bartlett said.

Not always, though. There was this one kid who was defiant and confrontational. They looked beyond that veneer and saw the qualities AVID seeks. That kid is now working with a local veterinarian and is headed to college to study to be a veterinarian.

Already looking ahead

They’re done, but like everyone else their school year didn’t end with a traditional finish. Park and Bartlett hear from their AVID class members all the time.

“I’ve been really impressed. They’re wise beyond their years. They’re all level-headed about this,” Park said.

For the Class of 2020, commencement is not normal.

“I wanted to stand up there and say goodbye to them,” Park said. “Working with this class-turned-family has been the highlight of my teaching career.”

About AVID

AVID is a national program that reaches 2 million students in 7,500 schools across 47 states. They train teachers to help close the opportunity gap and prepare students for college, careers and life.

It started in 1980 amid the chaos of forced bussing on San Diego. Teachers at San Diego’s Clairemont High School had low expectations for students bussed in from disadvantaged areas. Many believed these students could not succeed.

Mary Catherine Swanson, English department head and teacher, was not one of them. She believed if students were willing to work, she could teach them the skills needed to be college-ready.

By 1986, Swanson’s AVID system was so successful at Clairemont High School that it expanded the AVID program throughout San Diego County, and eventually the country.

Minturn road work on Highway 24 resumes June 8

The Colorado Department of Transportation and contractor American Civil Constructors will return to Minturn June 8 to complete the U.S. Highway 24 Improvements project.

Work will be completed on Highway 24 from Interstate 70 to Maloit Park Road (Mile Point 147). Crews will complete the project by marking crosswalks, installing pedestrian railing, finishing up topsoil, revegetation and other punch list items. Major contract items have already been completed.

While crews will be on site from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. Monday through Friday, weekday traffic control will not begin until after 9 a.m. Traffic control may require single-lane closures with flaggers directing alternating through traffic, with potential holds of up to 15 minutes. American Civil Constructors may also shift traffic in certain areas; transportation officials ask motorists to stay alert and watch for the directional cones during work hours.

The construction company will notify businesses and residences prior to work directly in front of their property. Work should be complete by June 26.  

The U.S. Highway 24 improvements project started in 2019 and is designed to improve the existing road surface and advance safety enhancements throughout the corridor. Those safety enhancements include rockfall mitigation, upgraded storm sewer capacity, new guardrail compliant with current standards and improved multi-modal access. In partnership with the state, the town of Minturn funded local improvements including additional sidewalks, new curb, gutter, driveway entrances and ADA enhancements.

For more information, call 970-287-0033 or email publicinfo@accbuilt.com. The project web page is https://www.codot.gov/projects/us-6-24-minturn.

Colorado lawmakers launch bipartisan effort to repeal Gallagher Amendment

The vision of an empty fire station in Glenwood Springs keeps Fire Chief Gary Tillotson up nights. Should a fire break out or someone need medical aid, help would have to come from further away — meaning much longer response times when people can least afford them.

The vast majority of the fire department’s calls are for medical emergencies like heart attacks and strokes, Tillotson said — situations in which the chances of death escalate dramatically if responders don’t arrive within five to seven minutes.

But if the department’s $4 million annual budget dwindles any further, that vision of empty fire stations and delayed response times will become a reality.

The coronavirus pandemic has already meant a costly drop in sales tax revenue for the Glenwood Springs Fire Department, and the economic devastation the pandemic is wreaking — combined with a state law called the Gallagher Amendment — means local governments’ property tax revenues will suffer for years to come.

“It’s an insurmountable obstacle,” Tillotson said. “We work on a relatively meager operations budget anyway and with the current devastation to our sales tax, we’re already having to cut back and basically we’re furloughing our firefighters. Any further cuts are going to reduce service.”

Read more via The Denver Post.

Eagle County rolls out welcome mat, says “summer of the part-time resident” will aid coronavirus recovery

GYPSUM — Carlos Gomez stepped off the jet and took a breath while admiring the view of snow-capped peaks in the distance. The Miami resident was only a short drive from his vacation home in Pitkin County.

“It’s good to be back home,” he said on Memorial Day, minutes after arriving on an American Airlines jet from Dallas. 

Gomez has been watching the public health orders coming out of Colorado’s mountain towns since the early days of the pandemic that warned nonresident owners they could face fines — or worse — if they visited. As counties started to relax regulations preventing visitors, he hopped on a flight. 

“If this stretch had been any longer, I might have been upset. I pay property taxes and there wasn’t any delay on our part in paying those taxes,” he said. “They were still able to send that bill though. I’m glad to be here and I’m ready to help carry the local economy again.”

Vacation-home owners have long fueled resort economies in Colorado. But in the pandemic, resort communities have urged those owners from afar to avoid their getaways in the hills. That’s changing, starting with Eagle County. 

Read more via The Colorado Sun.

WATCH: Protestors gather peacefully in Vail Village to demonstrate for George Floyd

As shock and outrage over George Floyd’s killing swept the nation over the weekend, even the luxurious streets of Vail Village were not insulated from pressure boiling over in the form of demonstrations.

A peaceful protest attracted about 50 people to Bridge Street on Sunday, with people in attendance holding signs that ranged from the familiar slogans of “Black lives matter” and “No justice no peace” to more specific messages like “White people … do something” and “I trust my local law enforcement. Everyone should have this right in America.”

Demonstrators walk the streets of Vail Village on Sunday, protesting against police brutality in the United States.
Chris Dillmann | cdillmann@vaildaily.com

Organizer Zach Varon said after he engaged in a solo protest on Saturday, he was encouraged to do something more organized on Sunday.

“It was really positive,” he said of his experience standing in front of Vail’s Covered Bridge on Saturday, holding a sign that said “stop killing and subjugating us.”

Varon said he didn’t know what to expect heading into Sunday. He said he was surprised to see such a large turnout.

“I never in my mind imagined we could have this kind of support,” he said.

Varon said the demonstration was about more than George Floyd, who died May 25 after Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin kneeled on Floyd’s neck for 8 minutes while arresting Floyd for suspicion of passing a counterfeit bill. 

“This isn’t about any one person, this is an ongoing thing,” Varon said on Sunday.

Zach Varon in Vail Village on Saturday. Varon said after having a positive experience demonstrating alone on Saturday, he put a call out to others to join him on Sunday, and was blown away by the turnout.
Special to the Daily

Curfew in Denver through Monday

In Denver, protests began on Thursday and continued through Sunday. Following riots on Friday, Denver Mayor Michael Hancock issued a curfew, in effect for Denver residents from 8 p.m. to 5 a.m. through Monday.

Hancock also requested the support of the Colorado National Guard, which Governor Jared Polis authorized on Saturday.

“Friday’s demonstrations against the senseless killing of George Floyd and far too many innocent black Americans before him began as a peaceful day time protest and unfortunately shifted into disorder late into the evening,” Polis said on Saturday. “It appears the disruptors that caused damage throughout the city were not necessarily the same peaceful protesters from the day time. Unfortunately, because of a few individuals who were more focused on causing unrest and damage rather than advocating for justice, people awoke to images of smashed out windows, graffiti, and the smell of tear gas.”

State Senate President Leroy Garcia, the only member of color on leadership in the Colorado General Assembly, warned of agitators who use protests to ignite chaos between protestors and police.

“Those seeking only to destruct and destroy should not be associated with those asking for change,” Garcia said. “With the recent announcement by the governor to deploy the National Guard, I must emphasize that their first priority should be the health and safety of those who choose to demonstrate. We cannot allow the militarization of our great state.”

‘I love my local cops’

In Vail, the group considered marching to the police station, but decided on a route down Bridge Street and Gore Creek Drive instead.

The Vail demonstrators said while there is symbolism in demonstrating in front of a police building, in Vail they were more likely to be seen and heard on Bridge Street.

Also, protesters said, community policing in Vail and Eagle County does not appear to be a part of the larger problem across the United States.

And for some, that was the whole point of demonstrating.

“I love my local cops,” said one protestor on Sunday. “They’re really great people, I feel like there’s a partnership there. But not everybody in the country has that privilege.”

Glenwood Canyon traffic delays set for June 1-5

The Colorado Department of Transportation encourages travelers to plan for traffic holds the week of June 1 on Interstate 70 in Glenwood Canyon. Holds will allow the transportation department and contract partner Casper Electric to stage equipment to do the necessary work for the No Name Tunnel control center and new lighting system for the No Name Tunnel lighting replacement project.

Traffic holds will also allow for work to be completed by construction crews with the Glenwood Canyon surface improvement project.

Westbound travelers should be prepared for 30-minute delays during work hours until mid-June. Delays will be intermittent. Hours of operation are Monday through Friday from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m.

Eastbound motorists on I-70 in Glenwood Canyon should plan for single 20-minute traffic holds on June 1 and June 8. One traffic hold is planned for each day. The holds will take place at the east entrance of No Name Tunnel and are anticipated to take place between 12 p.m. and 2 p.m.

Eastbound and westbound motorists should plan for a single lane of traffic in each direction, in a head-to-head detour, between Hanging Lake Tunnel (Mile Point 125) and No Name Tunnel (MP 117.6). This detour will be in place through October.

Delay times will vary depending on travel volumes in the canyon. Plan to add an additional 30 minutes to your travel time. On weekdays, travel times between Glenwood Springs and Dotsero have averaged 25 to 35 minutes.

Motorists should anticipate that travel times will get longer, especially on the weekends (Friday through Sunday), as more cars return to roadways during the COVID-19 pandemic.

 To hear approximate travel times, call 970-618-5379. To view live road cameras, go to www.COTrip.org.

Motorists should use both lanes to the merge point, called a zipper merge. Please be aware of posted speed limits throughout work zones, to keep both fellow motorists and crews safe.

Vail Valley Charitable Fund’s LG Tri returns to Eagle July 11

The Vail Valley Charitable Fund has announced that the 12 annual LG Sprint Tri will take place on July 11 at the Eagle Pool and Ice Rink. The celebration kicks off on Friday, July 10, with registration, music, food, beverages and a silent auction preview. New this year are two mountain bike rides; one on Boneyard and the other on Haymaker. 

Ever thought about participating in a triathlon? Well, if you can swim, bike or run, you can TRI, either individually or on a team. Bring your kids and encourage them to TRI too. This event is open to all ages and abilities.

The ages 14 and up triathlon includes a 500-meter swim (10 laps in the Eagle Pool), a 12-mile bike loop along Brush Creek Road and a 5K run through Eagle Ranch. Participants can sign up as individuals or members of a team, and at the conclusion of the race enjoy an award ceremony with prizes from several local organizations. 

There will also be a silent auction that includes items from Vail Resorts EpicPromise, including a 2021-22 Epic Pass, lodging, dining and spa gift certificates, as well as vouchers to local bars, restaurants and salons, retail items and much more. 

The LG Kids Tri will include three age groups: 6-7, 8-10, and 11-13. The 6-7-year-old age group will experience a 25-yard swim (a half-lap in the pool), a one-mile bike ride, and a half-mile run. The 8-10 year age group will have a 50-yard swim (one lap in the pool), a 3.2-mile bike ride, and a .75-mile run. The 11-13-year-old age group will enjoy a 100-yard swim (two laps in the pool), a five-mile bike ride, and a one-mile run. 

Registration is open online until Thursday, July 10, at midnight. Last-minute registrations will be accepted during the Friday night packet pick-up at the Eagle Pool & Ice Rink on July 10 from 5 to 7 p.m. Go to www.lgtri.com to register or sign up to volunteer. 

This event is held in memory of a longtime local and Vail Valley Charitable Fund beneficiary, Laura Genelin, who lost her battle with cancer in July 2008. Proceeds from the LG Tri will benefit the Vail Valley Charitable Fund, a local nonprofit helping community members facing medical crises since 1996.

Event sponsors include Eagle Valley Behavioral Health, Alpine Bank, Anthem Blue Cross, Architecture Engineering Consultants, Axis Sports Medicine, Calvary Chapel, Comerford Insurance, Eagle Ranch Association, Gallegos Corporation, town of Eagle, S&H Roofing, Main Street Grill, Moe’s BBQ, Mountain Recreation, Vail Resorts Epic Promise, Vail Honeywagon, Bonfire Brewing, KZYR, United Way, Vail Valley Cares Thrifty Shops, Vail Honeywagon, Vail Daily, Xerox High Country Copiers and Rocky Mountain Reprographics.  

The Vail Valley Charitable Fund was created in 1996 to help individuals who live and work in the Vail Valley who are experiencing financial hardship due to a medical crisis or long-term illness. The fund distributes one time grants up to $5,000 and also coordinate extended grant fundraisers for applicants requiring additional assistance. Since its inception, Vail Valley Charitable Fund has distributed $8.2 million to over 1,700 local families.  For more information, go to www.vvcf.org.

Vail Mountain School gives seniors a unique send-off

At its core, a graduation ceremony is a celebration of accomplishment and a chance to share good wishes for the future.

Vail Mountain School on Saturday honored its 30-member class of 2020 with those core elements in a ceremony unique in the school’s history.

This wasn’t a graduation as such, but a “conferring of diplomas.” Due to the COVID-19 epidemic, graduates and families stayed in cars in the parking lot. Speakers came to the outdoor podium one by one, each taking a disinfectant wipe to clean the podium and microphone for the next speaker.

Each address was met with horn-honking worthy of a tailgate party or drive-in theater. Of course, tailgate parties and drive-ins don’t often feature classical music before and after the main event.

After brief addresses by Head of School Michael Imperi and several students in the class, students and parents walked one family at a time to the cabin on the north side of the school’s athletic field. There, a small table held the diplomas. Students turned their tassels, rang the vintage railroad bell on the cabin’s porch, then strolled back to their cars.

Starting and finishing

Also at the table was a vase holding 30 yellow roses. Those roses are usually presented to seniors by members of the school’s kindergarten class.

In her address, Isabella Tonazzi said the bond between the seniors and the kindergarteners is one of the important things about having all grades in the same school.

“As their eyes look up to us, they show us how fun the little things can be and to take life less seriously sometimes,” Tonazzi said, adding that as the school year went on, some seniors found role models in their younger buddies.

This year’s class included seven students who had spent their entire academic career at Vail Mountain School. In her address, “13er” Charlotte Parker talked about the ways parts of her classmates’ kindergarten personalities persisted throughout their time at the school.

“I have loved going through each year with our little original group to welcome all the new additions that we have gotten over the years who add so much to our grade and our community,” Parker said. “I can’t wait to see where my other 13ers end up.”

Onto the next chapter

Part of the core of graduation is the bittersweet realization that it’s now time for a new chapter in life.

For this year’s seniors, that new chapter started in March, when the school building closed. Studies shifted to homes, and the social element of school ended with almost no warning.

Nico O’Connell’s address reflected on a surpassingly strange end to the school year.

The day the closure announcement was made, seniors were “crying left and right,” O’Connell said.

“Senior year has really changed the dynamic of our class,” O’Connell said. “It united us even with all of our cliques and wild personalities.”

After the diplomas were conferred and tassels turned, a caravan of cars, many decorated and most drivers honking joyfully, left the parking lot and drove this year’s seniors off into their next great adventures.

Vail Daily Business Editor Scott Miller can be reached at smiller@vaildaily.com.

Colorado church’s suit against Polis receives support from U.S. Justice Department’s Civil Rights Division

DENVER (AP) — The head of the U.S. Justice Department’s Civil Rights Division said Friday the department supports a Colorado church’s claim that state measures to combat the coronavirus discriminate against houses of worship and violate First Amendment rights to religious freedoms.

Eric S. Dreiband said in a statement that the department has filed a “statement of interest” in a Denver federal court lawsuit filed last week by High Plains Harvest Church against Democratic Gov. Jared Polis.

The action follows a statement issued in April by Attorney General William P. Barr that argued the government can’t impose “special restrictions” on religious activity. Some places of worship around the country opened last weekend after President Donald Trump declared them essential and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention released guidelines for reopening faith organizations.

Polis’ office stood behind its measures on Friday.

“We believe our actions are constitutional and appropriately tailored to protect public health,” said Conor Cahill, the governor’s press secretary.

Both the Justice Department and the High Plains Harvest Church contend that Polis’ administration imposes more severe restrictions on gatherings at houses of worship than it does for restaurants or retail stores. Colorado has restricted church gatherings to 10 people per room with social distancing, while it recently allowed retail stores to reopen with social distancing and other precautions without a strict limit on the number of people inside.

Restaurants, too, were allowed to partially reopen this week at 50% capacity and with a 50-person limit if patrons are seated according to social distancing standards. The relaxation followed strict limits on restaurants to pick-up and delivery only in the first phase of a statewide health order that has since expired.

“Especially during a crisis like this, the ability of people of faith to be able to exercise their religion is essential,” said Dreiband, an assistant attorney general.

“We appreciate the challenging position that the state and the governor face in trying to balance public safety with personal and religious freedoms,” Jason Dunn, the U.S. attorney for the District of Colorado, said in a Friday statement. “But when government restrictions cross the line into unconstitutional violations of religious liberty, it is my duty and that of the Department of Justice to engage and protect those interests.”

Polis’ administration has had ongoing consultations with leaders of houses of worship since the pandemic struck and is constantly updating its pandemic orders. Most churches, particularly in the conservative Colorado Springs area, have encouraged their parishioners and congregants to participate remotely in online services and worship.

Dreiband said that “because Colorado appears to be treating similarly situated non-religious activity, such as in-person dining in restaurants, better than places of worship, these actions may constitute a violation of the church’s constitutional right to the free exercise of religion.”

The church says Polis and Jill Hunsaker Ryan, executive director of the state health department, violated its rights with health orders that threaten fines or jail time for violations. It seeks to have the guidance on churches overturned.

The church is based in Ault, a rural town in northern Colorado with an estimated population of 1,800.

For most people, the virus causes mild or moderate symptoms that clear up in two to three weeks. Older adults and people with existing health problems can face severe illness and death. The vast majority of people recover.

WATCH: Denver sees dumpster fires, vandalism during 3rd night of George Floyd protests

Police largely gained control over the situation in downtown Denver less than two hours after a citywide 8 p.m. curfew went into effect following two prior nights of riots that included vandalism, fires and looting.

The riots followed peaceful protests during the day Thursday, Friday and Saturday in response to the in-custody death of George Floyd.

Tear gas and pepper balls were deployed starting shortly after 4 p.m., and shortly after 8 p.m., police quickly dismantled a barricade at 14th Avenue and Lincoln Street that protesters had constructed using chain link fence and road closure signs.

About 30-40 small fires ignited in dumpsters and on items like mattresses and trash piles starting shortly after 8:30 p.m. 

Read more via 9News.