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James Madison Charter Academy surviving and thriving

 

Last updated 10/13/2020 at 4:05pm

Courtesy of James Madison Charter Academy

A group of fourth-graders at James Madison Charter Academy pose with their teacher, holding posters from their fundraiser where they raised money to help a veteran with PTSD get a service dog. 

Kyle Morin is having an interesting first year as school principal. He had been teaching fifth to eighth grade for three years at James Madison Charter Academy (660 Syracuse St. in Widefield) before he became the school's acting principal in 2020.

"The summer was a challenge in just trying to figure out what schools should look like in a COVID world," Morin said. "There were many days spent at the school doing things like measuring desks to make sure they were safely 6 feet apart and transforming the staff room into an extra nurses' office in order to accommodate for COVID."

Despite some initial nervousness, Morin says that the school year has "largely been a success."

"Our students come to school excited to learn," Morin observed. "We have been able to maintain an in-person school and online school simultaneously.  Our fifth- and sixth-graders have started a school compost project, and our fourth-grade class has raised close to $250 to help train service dogs for veterans with PTSD."

The online option is taught by licensed James Madison teachers using Zoom (for teaching mathematics) and Schoology online conferences (for literacy and core knowledge classes). Morin described the kind of instruction that the online students are receiving as "near identical to their in-class peers, just via an online environment."

The transition this school year may have been helped by the fact that James Madison specializes in smaller class sizes. The school's official Facebook page states that its classes operate on a "20 to 1 student-to-teacher ratio," and Morin says that on average each class has 13 students. He noted this helps the school tailor its curriculum to the students, allowing teachers to find what works best for their classes. This approach is particularly important since James Madison uses project-based learning, which means teachers and students have to go beyond memorizing and reciting material.

Courtesy of James Madison Charter Academy

Kyle Morin gets pied in the face at a school event during his first year as a teacher at James Madison. Morin is currently serving as acting principal of the school.

"Our philosophy is for students to not just learn information, but to apply the information with a new skill," Morin explained. "For example, when students study the American Civil War, they are not just learning basic facts about the war, they then must apply these facts about the war by placing key figures from the American Civil War on trial."

The small class size also helps to accentuate a kind of family atmosphere, something Morin is very proud of.

"Many of our students have been with the school since kindergarten," he said. "Our students in class are more like siblings to one another than classmates. Additionally, due to the fact our school services K-8 students, many of our families send all of their children to the school. For instance, there is one family that has a second-grader, fifth-grader, seventh-grader, and eighth-grader attending the school. Additionally, their cousin just moved from California and will also attend our school."

To learn more about James Madison Charter Academy, contact Kyle Morin at [email protected], Business Manager Donna Smith at [email protected] or check out the school's website at https://jmcacolorado.net/.

 

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