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Graduation 2020: Basalt High co-valedictorians to lead graduating class during Saturday ceremony

For the better part of her junior and senior years at Basalt High School, Sasha Brucker lived in Canada to play hockey and attended BHS remotely. Her plan had been to return home this spring for a final few months in the classroom with her peers and maybe play on the Longhorn soccer team before the novel coronavirus pandemic changed all that.

“I was planning on coming back and seeing all my classmates again for the last three months of school. Obviously, I haven’t been able to see them and I’m really excited to be able to catch up with them and see all their faces one more time,” Brucker said. “The senior class in Basalt has definitely gone through quite a lot the past few years. We are hanging in there.”

Despite her remote learning, Brucker did enough to still be named co-valedictorian for the BHS class of 2020, alongside close friend Anne Schrock. The two will give a joint speech during Saturday’s 9 a.m. drive-in graduation ceremony in front of the high school, which is being limited to students, immediate family and staff. BHS plans to hold a car parade through Basalt and Willits immediately following the ceremony.

“We want to try to somewhat inspire our classmates, but we were also hoping to bring some light-hearted humor into it,” Schrock said of their speech. “Obviously it’s an unconventional ceremony that we are having, but knowing that we’ve all been through a lot and we’ve been through it all together, I’m really excited to get back together with them and celebrate everything and be together one last time as a class.”

Here’s a closer look at both of Basalt’s class of 2020 co-valedictorians:

HOCKEY FUELS BRUCKER’S PLANS

Brucker once played for Aspen Junior Hockey, including the first AA girls team that made it to the national tournament. But the constant travel wore on her, so she took an opportunity to move to Ontario and play through the Hockey Training Institute near Barrie.

After graduation, and once the pandemic has passed, Brucker hopes to return to Canada to play hockey during her gap year before moving onto college a year later. Given a choice, she’d like to play hockey for Yale University in Connecticut. But she’s also willing to keep her options open in regard to both hockey and her academics.

When she finally makes it into the college classroom, Brucker has plans to take a pre-med route, although even that remains in flux.

“My goal is to play at Yale. I was talking to them a bit this season, but it just didn’t work out, but they are still interested for 2021,” Brucker said. “I can’t really imagine going to school and not doing something that I love at the same time. But if it comes down to it, if I get into an amazing school without hockey, then I might just go to school and maybe play club or something. Because definitely education is more important.”

Even though she spent most of the past two years in Canada away from her classmates, Brucker feels a special bond with this group and is excited to represent Basalt as a graduate and as one of its valedictorians.

“For me, it’s just kind of a validation of having to work a little extra hard to do school on my own time,” Brucker said. “I’m excited I get to be part of Basalt High School in this big of a way, even though I wasn’t necessarily there the whole time. I’ve gone to Basalt my whole life and I always wanted to be part of the school.”

SCHROCK OFF TO THE BIG APPLE

Schrock has had her eyes set on Columbia University for a few years now. Since a trip to the school’s New York City campus ahead of her sophomore year, there was little doubt about her goals.

“I visited Columbia and I really like the city and I love the campus,” Schrock said. “It will be a transition for sure, but I’m excited for the change and living in the city.”

She was especially drawn to Columbia’s Core Curriculum, which requires undergraduates to take classes in many areas. This is a fit for Schrock, who has a multitude of academic interests. For example, she plans to double major in English and physics, two areas of study that couldn’t be further apart.

“I’m not really sure how exactly I want to fit them together, but they are the two things I really fell in love with in high school,” Schrock said. “I just like the idea that you are trying to understand the mechanical aspect of the world around you and pairing it with English, I’m able to understand more of the social impacts and more humanities.”

Schrock is the middle of three girls. Her older sister, Kate Schrock, was a 2018 BHS graduate and standout athlete who currently is studying exercise science at the University of Colorado Colorado Springs. Her younger sister, Grace Schrock, will graduate from BHS next year and also is a standout Longhorn athlete.

Anne Schrock said she enjoyed working with Brucker on their co-valedictorian speech.

“I thought it was easier, because we had a lot of the same things we wanted to say to the class,” Schrock said, “so being able to combine them and work together on a speech that would bring in the humor part and some good inspiring words we want to say, I thought it went really well.”

acolbert@aspentimes.com

Aspen High School graduation details set for Saturday, but no Friday parade

Aspen High School’s graduation plans are set for Saturday’s ceremony at Buttermilk Ski Area, but AHS principal Tharyn Mulberry confirmed Wednesday that the March of the Graduates won’t take place.

The march was going to be Friday in the form of a car parade through town, but there were too many questions surrounding COVID-19 to make it possible.

“There were multiple issues with it,” Mulberry said. “To be really frank, from the high school principal’s position, I’m so pleased with the way we are going to be conducting our graduation and the cooperation we’ve had with Skico and the county and the police department and the sheriff’s department. I’m very pleased that we can have the graduation the way we are going to do it.”

In place of the normal affair inside the Benedict Music Tent, Saturday’s graduation will take place in the Buttermilk parking lot and look like a drive-in movie with attendees sitting in their vehicles.

The 10 a.m. ceremony is not open to the public and will be limited to students, immediate family, and staff working the event. The ceremony will be livestreamed by GrassRoots TV via Facebook and YouTube.

Thursday’s drive-thru scholarship ceremony is still scheduled for 6 p.m. on the Aspen School District campus. Like the graduation, this is not open to the public in guidance with coronavirus-related safety protocols.

Basalt High School’s graduation remains slated for 9 a.m. Saturday from the BHS parking lot. Like Aspen, it will be drive-in style and limited to only students, immediate family and staff.

The BHS graduation will be live streamed on the school’s Facebook page. They plan to hold a car parade through Basalt and Willits immediately following the ceremony.

Basalt High School Seniors 2020

CMC presents proposed ’20-21 budget, endorses state ballot question to amend Gallagher provisions

Colorado Mountain College Trustees took their first peek at a $73.9 million budget for next year, while endorsing a proposed state measure that would help secure the college district’s funding into the future.

The CMC Board, meeting via Webex teleconference on May 20, held its first hearing on the fiscal year 2020-21 budget for the college.

The projected budget of $73.9 million has an expected 1.96% decrease in revenues compared to the current year, CMC administrative staff advised the board.

The budget does include a 1.25% cost-of-living increase for employees. That’s equal to mandatory cost increases on employees in the PERA state pension program, the college said in a follow-up news release. 

Also during the regular meeting, the board acted on a recommendation from its government relations committee to formally support a referred measure now before the Colorado Senate related to the state Gallagher Amendment.

The Colorado Department of Local Affairs now anticipates that special districts like CMC, as well as school and fire districts, will likely experience further negative financial impacts from Gallagher in 2021 and beyond.

Under Gallagher, as the value of real estate falls, the proportion of taxes owed will shift toward owners of commercial buildings. Current DOLA estimates suggest that, as a result, the state’s residential assessment rate may decline by 18% in 2021. 

The CMC board voted unanimously to support a proposal under consideration by the Colorado Legislature to refer a measure to the November ballot. Voters would be asked to strike several Gallagher-related provisions from the state constitution that have recently resulted in significant revenue reductions for special districts that rely on property taxes for their funding.

Among those provisions would be the elimination of the required 55/45 percent split between residential and nonresidential properties in figuring property tax assessments.

The current 29% fixed commercial property assessment rate would also be eliminated, under the proposal.

CMC two years ago obtained approval from district voters allowing trustees to adjust the college’s mill levy without going to voters in years when the Gallagher provisions kick in.

As for the coming budget year, a summary presentation of the 2020-21 budget will be made in June, including up-to-date changes in allocations from the state.

At the June meeting, trustees will be asked to formally adopt and appropriate funds for next year. The draft budget can be viewed at coloradomtn.edu.

Like Aspen, Basalt High School to hold drive-in graduation on May 30

Basalt High School’s seniors know how to handle difficult times. From the Lake Christine Fire in 2018 to the death of classmates Anna Cunningham and Tyler Ribich last year, changing up graduation amid the novel coronavirus pandemic is hardly a big deal.

“They have adapted well,” BHS principal Peter Mueller said Friday. “They have always been about caring for each other and they’ve always been about carrying a certain levity and reflection about what’s most important in life, and I think that’s what makes them a special class, is how gentle and thoughtful they are with each other.”

The latest hurdle came in the form of COVID-19, which brought an early end to in-person learning this spring and has forced the class of 2020 to adapt to a new normal as their high school careers come to a close. The BHS seniors finished up their final classes and exams Friday, meaning the only thing left to do is walk across the stage and graduate.

That graduation ceremony will happen next Saturday, May 30, although it will look a little bit different than it has. Much like other area schools are doing, including Aspen High School, BHS will hold a drive-in style graduation in the school’s parking lot at 9 a.m. that day, a change from the traditional ceremony on the football field. A stage will be set up in front of the school and the audience will remain in their vehicles and listen in on the radio.

The in-person attendees are being limited to students, immediate family and BHS teachers and staff.

“At first I was kind of nervous and a little bit upset, because obviously we don’t get the traditional graduation,” said BHS senior Sasha Brucker, who along with Anne Schrock is one of the co-valedictorians for the class of 2020. “But now I’m excited because I think it’s going to be something fun and different. It will definitely be a memorable graduation.”

Mueller said BHS is looking at 104 graduates this spring, a solid jump from the 89 official graduates in 2019. This year’s Longhorn seniors will pick up their caps and gowns Thursday, attend a graduation rehearsal Friday and then officially graduate the next day, albeit a little differently than would be the norm.

“They’ve been troopers at adjusting to challenges,” Mueller said. “We’ve tried to retain a lot of the traditions that have been a part of the spring of high school and the spring of senior year, so it’s been good.”

Basalt’s graduation, which is scheduled to last roughly 90 minutes, will overlap some with Aspen’s graduation, scheduled that same morning at Buttermilk Ski Area. The AHS ceremony had originally been scheduled for noon, but principal Tharyn Mulberry confirmed Friday it had been moved up to 10 a.m. to avoid the hottest part of the day and possible afternoon thunderstorms.

“That’s just too hot for graduation outside,” Mulberry said of temperatures that could push 80 degrees. “We are in the tent typically, so nobody notices it, because you can get some air through there. But they will notice it in a parking lot.”

Aspen’s graduation also will be akin to a drive-in movie and limited only to students, immediate family and faculty. Local big mountain skiing icon Chris Davenport is slated to be the commencement speaker, while senior Quinn Ramberg is the school’s valedictorian. The co-salutatorians are Kat Goralka and Maxine Mellin.

The AHS seniors also wrapped up school Friday, when they were able to pick up their caps and gowns.

“We had the best turnout for senior checkout we’ve ever had,” Mulberry said of the event organized by Danielle Pratt, the school’s head secretary. “She is so amazing. We had tents, it was outside, we were able to maintain social distance, we had gloves, we had masks. It was amazing how well our students complied with that.”

acolbert@aspentimes.com

Aspen High School Seniors 2020

Summer Advantage program canceled for schools in valley

A summer-school program that can help younger elementary students in Roaring Fork schools avoid the summer slide between grades will not happen this year due to concerns about reopening school buildings too soon.

The Roaring Fork School District and Summit 54, which sponsors the Summer Advantage USA program in Glenwood Springs, Carbondale and Basalt, jointly announced Tuesday that the program is canceled for this summer due to the COVID-19 outbreak.

“This was a difficult decision made in the interest of the health and safety of our students, staff and community, but we appreciate that many families will be disappointed at the lack of programming this summer,” Roaring Fork Schools Superintendent Rob Stein said in a news release.

“We really value our partnership with Summit 54 and Summer Advantage and look forward to offering the program next summer when conditions allow.”

The decision removes a free summer programming option that can help students kindergarten through fourth grade play catch-up for five weeks in late June and July if they’ve fallen behind during the regular school year.

That need could be even more pronounced this year, given difficulties for some students and families to fully participate in online distance learning that went into effect after the pandemic response in Colorado forced schools to be closed for the remainder of the school year.

Summer Advantage typically serves about 550 students and employs 110 staff members each summer, including several district teachers who rely on it for supplemental summer employment.

The programs take place at Glenwood Springs, Crystal River and Basalt Elementary schools, providing academic support and enrichment, hands-on learning projects, physical fitness activities and Friday field trips, plus two meals a day.

“Summit 54 is disappointed that our partnership with the Roaring Fork School District and Summer Advantage USA will not be able to provide the Summer Advantage program to our scholars this summer,” Terri Caine, co-founder of Summit 54, said, explaining that the health of students and staff takes precedence right now.

“The large program size increases risk, and the three-way partnership felt that the health and safety of our scholars, educators, support staff, parents and other family members required that we cancel the program for 2020,” Caine said in the release. “Summit 54 eagerly looks forward to sponsoring this important program again in 2021.”

The decision comes as the school district rolled out a phased plan to reopen school facilities to outside user groups following the COVID-19 closures.

While the district had hoped that could start in June, the decision was made to keep buildings closed until at least July, except for licensed child care programs.

“It still remains unknown whether schools will be able to resume in-person learning in the fall,” the district wrote in a parent newsletter sent out Tuesday. “At the same time, the state has allowed the safe reopening of licensed child care facilities and some other public spaces with specific guidelines.”

Under those guidelines, the district has decided to allow facility use by licensed child care programs, under the following circumstances, according to the newsletter article:

Licensed child care programs can only use district facilities that are physically separated from the main school buildings and office buildings at this time;

Programs must be self-supporting; district staff will not be asked to provide custodial, transportation, or food services for these programs. No district staff will be available to support these programs;

Licensed child care programs must meet the RFSD conditions and criteria for facility use outlined here; and

Business plans must be reviewed and/or approved by the county in which any programs will be operating.

All district school and office buildings will remain closed through June, and there will be no district-sponsored programming or facility use by non-licensed child care programs, the district has also determined.

As for outdoor recreation facilities and ball fields, the district is working with the parks and recreation departments in each of its municipalities to determine the appropriate use. Many town recreation programs rely on school facilities for summer youth and adult sports leagues.

“We know that this news is disappointing to many in our community,” the district said in the newsletter. “While we want to support the economic recovery in our community, we must put the safety of our students, staff and the broader community first. We will continue to monitor to determine whether more use of district facilities might be allowable later in the summer.”

A “Roadmap to Reopening” school buildings to outside users was also presented to the RFSD school board last week. It outlines a three-phase approach over a three-month span in which the district could begin allowing groups of 10 one month, increasing to 25 the next month, and 50 by the third month, depending on public health guidelines at the time.

Aspen High School firms up graduation plans, including May 29 parade through town

More details were finalized for Aspen High School’s upcoming graduation events, which conclude with a May 30 drive-in ceremony at Buttermilk Ski Area. AHS principal Tharyn Mulberry confirmed Thursday a series of events over the next two-plus weeks that will help celebrate the class of 2020.

The main festivities are set to begin Tuesday with a virtual International Baccalaureate diploma reception that will honor the school’s IB students.

“Each staff member takes one of the IB diploma candidates and does a personal narrative about them in the IB program, so it’s a really beautiful ceremony in person,” Mulberry said. “They are going to do this virtually and honor all the students that were part of the IB program.”

The excitement really picks up May 22, the last day of school for the seniors. That Friday will include the distribution of caps and gowns to the students, as well as the handing out of yearbooks.

The main events will take place over three consecutive days, beginning May 28 with a drive-thru scholarship ceremony on the Aspen School District campus. The by-invitation event takes place of the school’s annual awards ceremony, which usually includes many of the scholarship donors in attendance.

“This is such a great time of year to have them come in and get to see how it affects kids,” Mulberry said. “Unfortunately, it’s been taken away by COVID. We’re still going to do that; we are going to video it and make sure it gets to them so they have a chance to see what is going on.”

Mulberry said 70 students have been invited to take part in the scholarship ceremony and they are being asked to dress up as they’ll have their pictures taken as they take turns driving through.

The annual March of the Graduates will take place in form of a parade through Aspen on Friday, May 29. This event is usually held on the seniors’ last day as a walk through the ASD schools, but it has been pushed back a week to also serve as a dress rehearsal of sorts for graduation the following day.

A time was still being determined for the May 29 parade, but Mulberry did say the route would be the same as used during the city’s annual Fourth of July parade, only beginning in the Aspen Middle School parking lot and ending at Buttermilk.

“There will be signs on Main Street,” Mulberry said. “When people have a chance, they can come out and be along the parade route. They have to stay in their cars and follow all the COVID regulations, but they can certainly cheer our graduates on.”

The concluding event will be the May 30 graduation in the Buttermilk parking lots. Scheduled for noon, the ceremony will function much like a drive-in movie, with the students and audience sitting in their vehicles to adhere to safety guidelines related to the pandemic. A stage will be set up and the audio will be broadcast over the radio.

Mulberry said more details should be finalized Friday after administration meets with Aspen Skiing Co. and Pitkin County officials. Otherwise, the main pieces of the graduation events are in place.

Also a mainstay each graduation season is the AHS senior sports banquet, which includes the handing out of the senior male and female athlete of the year awards. AHS athletic director Martha Richards said most of those awards would be rolled into the May 28 drive-thru scholarship ceremony.

The spring sports season was canceled by the Colorado High School Activities Association and coach-athlete contact, including practices, remains off limits outside of coaches giving out voluntary workouts for athletes to do from home. Richards said CHSAA has recently put together a task force to begin to think about summer training and fall sports, should either be allowed to happen.

“CHSAA is really telling all of us it’s kind of guided by your local health committees and your school administrations,” Richards said. “We have coaches brainstorming on different things we can do if groups are allowed to get together. There are just so many question marks.”

acolbert@aspentimes.com