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Avon Elementary to launch ‘re-branding’ effort

Scott N. Miller
Preston Utley/Vail DailyStudents of Avon Elementary exit the school Friday in Avon, parents and school officials are considering a name change for the elementary school.
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AVON – Almost a decade after the doors opened, it may be time for a fresh start at Avon Elementary School.That fresh start may include a new name for the school – although there are no official new names floating around just yet – and a marketing effort to bring kids into the facility.”We just want to tell people what’s really going on at Avon,” parent Pat Donovan said.Parents and administrators at the school believe a lot of parents in the valley have the wrong idea about the school. Now, they say, it’s time to trumpet the good things going on there.”More people need to realize Avon Elementary is an excellent school,” said Betty Harwood, the mother of a first grader there. “The perception is it’s not of the same quality as other schools in the district.”That perception was apparent at a recent meeting hosted by Meadow Mountain Elementary parents. At that meeting, held to lobby against the possible closure of the Eagle-Vail school, some parents said they wouldn’t send their kids to Avon under any circumstances.There’s a long waiting list at the Eagle County Charter Academy, populated primarily by kids from Singletree and Wildridge who would otherwise attend Avon Elementary.

“Our enrollment is down,” principal Barbara Collins said. But, she added, a lot of the decline is due to kids in nearby homes moving into middle school.But the declining numbers at Avon could spell trouble. The school’s enrollment this year is just under 300 students. That number is significant because school district officials consider 300 a kind of magic number, the level at which per-student funding allows programs beyond just the basics. And Harwood is concerned about losing programs if enrollment continues to drop.”We have some excellent programs,” she said. “We’ve got an outstanding art teacher.”Beyond programs, Harwood said, too few people see the effort that the teachers at Avon put into their jobs. “Half the teachers speak Spanish and English,” Harwood said. “They don’t have to, but they do, and more are learning.”But it’s language that’s been a problem for Avon.While Collins asserts that Avon is an English-speaking school – and the vast majority of instruction is done in English – the fact is that more than three-quarters of the students there are Latino.

“Every parent wants the best education possible for their kids,” said Carolyn Neff, the district’s director of primary education. “If they think they won’t get that because of the racial imbalance, then they’re going to go some place else.”But Neff, who was the first principal at Avon, said good things are happening there. And test scores seem to bear that out.White kids at the school do as well on their standardized tests as any other students in the district, and when Avon’s Latino kids take their tests in Spanish, they score well, too.And, Neff said, the testing that measures kids’ progress shows Avon’s students do as well as, or better than, any other students in the district. With what’s going right at the school, “A little marketing wouldn’t be a bad idea,” Neff said.Marketing will be necessary, too, if Avon’s parents and administrators succeed in making the school a “magnet school,” that is, a school that specializes in one or two fields.The effort to make the school a magnet begins next year, when white kids will be offered Spanish as a second language in kindergarten and first grade. The Gore Range Natural Science School will also offer classes at Avon next year.”We have a lot of work ahead of us,” Collins said. “And if we’re going to be a magnet school, we have a lot of work to do on how that would work.”



Through the changes, Harwood said her son, Wyatt, will keep going to Avon Elementary.”I choose to send Wyatt to Avon,” Harwood said. “I want it to be a school of choice for other parents, too.”Staff Writer Scott N. Miller can be reached at 949-0555, ext. 613, or smiller@vaildaily.com.Vail Daily, Vail Colorado


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