There’s a word that TJ McManus repeats often: Community. McManus is the principal at Stevens Elementary School in Wheat Ridge. Faculty with pom-poms in hand cheered students and parents as they …
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There’s a word that TJ McManus repeats often: Community.
McManus is the principal at Stevens Elementary School in Wheat Ridge.
Faculty with pom-poms in hand cheered students and parents as they entered the building — via a red carpet and balloon arch — for the first day of school Thursday, Aug. 16. Students and parents passed by a new picnic area outside the cafeteria and had the option to grab some breakfast in a revamped dining space Thursday morning.
“We’ve removed old-fashioned long tables,” McManus said.
Now dubbed the Family and Community Engagement Center, the formerly known cafeteria features round tables with eight seats.
“To promote communication and collaboration among kids,” McManus said.
McManus said the space will also be utilized to host community events.
Outside, she hopes parents use the new picnic tables to share lunch with their children during the school day.
“We hope that gets a sense of community going, build some relationships with the parents, get some volunteers into the school,” McManus said.
McManus also pointed out other school features like the new community garden beds available for rent for planting vegetables or flowers. While providing space for gardening, it will also be used as a learning space for students. The community garden is in partnership with Denver Urban Gardens. To rent a gardening bed, contact the school.
“Stevens also operates a community hub, so it’s resources for families,” McManus explained. “It offers clothing, dry goods, medical care on Fridays, access to coats and shoes, access to computers.”
She said The Hub is in a new space in the school to the left of the cafeteria doors.
McManus said creating that sense of community that she continually reiterates is part of the Jeffco Generations initiative by the school district, but she wanted Stevens Elementary to focus on it.
“It’s something we really want to promote here,” McManus said. “So making sure our families have everything they need to be successful in life and that their kids can be successful in school.”
The school’s motto is “cultivating caring leaders of tomorrow.”
“Everything revolves around that and the services we can provide,” McManus said.
Fifth grade teacher Emily Cowles said that’s what attracted her to the school. It’s her first year teaching at Stevens Elementary.
“I’m just really excited to be here, so I’ve got the same first day jitters as my kids,” Cowles said.
Cowles said things like the reconfigured cafeteria help, it’s more welcoming and interactive when students can look at each other while eating.
“I was really drawn to the school because it’s an EL model curriculum,” she said.
The "expeditionary learning" model is about teaching in a way that relates to students’ everyday lives. Cowles said.
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