Basalt parents pushing for `gifted’ program in schools |

Basalt parents pushing for `gifted’ program in schools

Tim Mutrie

A group of parents of Basalt Elementary and Middle School students are making a concerted effort to improve educational opportunities at the two public schools, especially for students identified as “gifted and talented.”

The Basalt Academic Enrichment Committee (BAEC), headed by parents Beth Mehall and Betsy Bingham-Johns, will go before the Roaring Fork School District School Board on May 26 to present an eight-page proposal and ask for their support.

Specifically, BAEC will ask the board to appoint a “gifted and talented/enrichment” coordinator who would implement and oversee several outside-the-classroom programs, including a special library of hands-on activities for students to explore, Internet projects, mentorships, and after-school activities.

“We want to identify and encourage the students who would be considered gifted, but I want to stress that this isn’t just a gifted program,” said Mehall, the mother of a first-grader and a kindergartner-to-be. “It’s going to benefit children of all learning needs. The goal of the program is that it would provide a lot of individual learning opportunities for kids of all levels.”

“We feel our teachers are spread really thin as it is, they’re doing a superb job, but there are 20, 21 kids in each class,” Mehall said. “And, you have so many different levels in each class, kids who are reading below level, kids who are at grade level, and kids who are reading several grades above. It’s difficult for one teacher to meet all those kids’ needs.

“What the teachers really need is support, and we feel this proposal will do just that. The main thing we’re requesting is to have a coordinator appointed to facilitate this,” she said.

Mehall said BAEC’s goal is to have a qualified coordinator in place when the next school year begins in the fall.

“Elementary school is when children need the basics, so if they’re being turned off the school because they’re not being challenged, that’s going to stick with them,” Mehall said of the urgent nature of the proposal. “The need is there and it needs to be addressed right away.

“Our main reason for wanting the coordinator is that we feel there are some great programs out there, and we feel it can only work if there’s someone who can work with the children individually. The teachers simply don’t have the time,” Mehall said.

Mehall said BAEC has been in

contact with numerous Basalt parents, teachers and administrators, as well as other school districts and gifted/talented specialists to discuss the proposal.

“The support has been just incredible. Everybody we’ve talked to has been excited about the possibilities of this program,” she said.

Mehall and other BAEC representatives also met with Judy Haptonstall, Roaring Fork School District assistant superintendent, recently to discuss the proposal.

“[Haptonstall] seemed very supportive of all these ideas,” Mehall said. “[The administration] is aware that there are concerns among teachers and parents.”

And the administration has been looking into data generated from recent district test scores to determine the merit of BAEC’s concerns, Mehall said.

In an effort to raise funds to support BAEC’s proposal, the group is sponsoring a Treasure Swap on Saturday, May 22 in the Basalt Middle School parking lot. The community flea market and bake sale will run from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. There is a $10 fee to reserve a space and participants are asked to donate at least 50 percent of their profits to BAEC. Donations are tax deductible. To reserve a space and/or for more information, call D.D. Gerdin at 923-3347 or Mary Delaney at 963-1944 by May 19.

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