Merit Integration Into WP Middle School Facility Highlights RE-2 Board Session

Academy Provides Glimpse Into 2022/2023 School Year; No Word on Recall Outcome

Trevor Phipps

A prevailing local political trend of recent months was shattered last week: The Woodland Park RE-2 School District Board of Directors conducted an official meeting without any verbal punches or shouting matches.

 And for a change, no mention was made of recall efforts, as signatures  are still being tallied on ouster petitions filed against two current elected leaders  by a group of local residents. The petition autographs are being reviewed for validity by the Teller County Clerk and Recorder’s Office.

During last week’s regular monthly forum, the public comment portion of the meeting was minimal and the session was mainly filled with business items that went by smoothly. That is a big change from previous board of education forums that have gotten quite heated.

The main topic of the August meeting was the start of the 2022-2023 school year. Classes start for all schools in the district on August 22, except for the Merit Academy, which will commence on August 24. The Merit Academy will share facilities with the WP Middle School.

The meeting was filled with presentations from various district leaders about plans for the upcoming school year. And for the first time, Merit Academy Chief Action Officer Dr. Gwynne Pekron spoke at the  school  board session. She gave an update on Merit’s new school year.

One major focus of the meeting dealt with integrating Merit into the district, and having it share part of the Woodland Park Middle School.  Before the last school year ended, the school board voted to approve Merit as a charter school and plans to move them into a portion of the middle school.

Over the summer, much construction work occurred, so that the building could accommodate students from the two schools. Pekron talked about the new plans for Merit Academy, including adding ninth graders to their lineup of students. During their inaugural year, the school only catered to kindergarten through eighth grade students.

Pekron talked about the various after-school programs that Merit will be offering, including a cheer squad for first graders. She also mentioned the addition of the Civil Air Patrol, a chess club, a shooting team and a new rugby team.

Overall, Pekron told the board that their experience being a charter school within the district has been a positive one, and she has enjoyed collaborating with district staff. “The teams on the WPSD side and the Merit Academy side have been working together incessantly,” Pekron said. “We have pretty much every room outfitted now. So, I think our transition has gone very smoothly and it has been a very positive experience.”

Pekron was then questioned about how the pick-up and drop-off times between the Woodland Park Middle School and the Merit Academy would be coordinated. She said that the Merit Academy slightly changed their school schedule so that the school day would not start and end at the same time as the middle school’s schedule.

She said that Merit will be starting five minutes later and ending five minutes later than it did last year. “We start at 7:55 a.m. and the middle school starts at 8:15 a.m.,” Pekron explained. “We end at 3:25 p.m. and the middle school ends at 3:15 p.m.”

For drop off in the mornings for the Merit Academy, parents will use the west side of the main lot near the bicycle racks. Parents of Merit students will then pick up their children in the afternoons in the bus loop on the east side of the building after the buses have vacated.

Facilities Projects Update

After Pekron took the floor, Executive Director of Technology and Operations Miles Tuttle gave a presentation on all of the projects that were conducted on the district’s facilities during the summer break. During his presentation, Tuttle emphasized the projects conducted to make the middle school building shareable with the Merit Academy.

Earlier in the summer, Tuttle said that the installation of the crash doors to separate the middle school and Merit would be delayed due to supply issues. Tuttle announced last week that the framing had been installed for the doors and that temporary doors that meet fire code would be used in the meantime.

During the summer, several classrooms in the middle school and Merit section had been replaced and the middle school commons got a new floor installed. He also said that the portion of the building that would be the new home to Merit got rekeyed so that there will be two separate keys to enter each section.

All of the doors will now be equipped with cameras so staff can view people who wish to enter and choose to buzz them in or not. A curtain was also installed in one of the gyms so that the middle school can utilize one gym for two different classes.

Tuttle said that most of the projects either got completed or will be completed by the time the new school year starts. However, the district is still waiting on the permanent crash doors and some wires to complete the computer lab/STEAM lab relocation project.