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education

Diverse WRHS student body returns to class

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Summer break has officially come to an end, and students' moods heading back into the halls of Wheat Ridge High School on Thursday, Aug. 17 ran the gamut.

Ivan Stanton, incoming freshman with a grin, described the beginning of the 2017-18 school year as "definitely exciting."

While junior Noah Rothermel sighed, and said he just felt "a little tired," and wondered why classes couldn't have started the following Monday instead.

Enthusiastic or not, more than 1,200 Wheat Ridge Farmers had to report to class. Even Rothermel, who said he was especially dreading English this year, said he'd be happy to see his friends again, and hit the school's weight room.

For Stanton, the situation is much different. He said that after attending middle school far from Wheat Ridge, he would be walking into a school knowing only one other person. Wearing a NASA T-shirt, Stanton said he was eager to jump into the school's Gifted and Talented (GT) program.

"I am concerned about the homework though," Stanton admitted.

The student body at WRHS reflects both racial and economic diversity, with nearly half the student body being a minority, and 47 percent of students qualifying for free or reduced lunch. Academically, the school lags behind some in the district, but has had some success, such as outperforming the rest of the state in mathematics and disadvantaged student test results.

Parent Elizabeth Panzer walked her two sons — 11th grade and ninth grade — in the front door on opening day. They too are new to the school, after several years at an area charter school.

"We're here for the GT program and the amazing staff," Panzer said.

Word that the district was potentially cutting back funding to the GT program is what brought it to Panzer's attention, she said.

"The whole school really rallied," said Panzer. "It really connected people and showed what a vibrant community it is here."

Also appealing to Panzer and her sons was that the school features a makers club, a nationally recognized STEM program, and the aforementioned GT program.

"It's for kids of all different interests," Panzer said.

As for the future of the GT program, which is still a point of debate within the district, Panzer said she has faith in the "diverse and focused" collection of parents and the "extremely dedicated" staff at Wheat Ridge to find solutions.

"I think it can serve as a microcosm of how the whole district can come together," she said.

Rothermel for his part, also said he had a high opinion about the caliber of people within the WRHS community — "The people here, they're pretty kind."

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