Prospect Ridge Academy

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Updates

Dear Parents,
 
Colorado weather has proven to be nothing but a guessing game this year and our students are definitely becoming squirrely within the classroom. Thankfully, here at PRA we provide social and physical development through athletics to help our kids release their energy. The Physical Activity Guidelines for Americans suggests that children ages 6 to 17 should be getting 60 minutes of moderate to vigorous activity throughout the school day.  By increasing the students heart rate during the school day we have seen fewer behavioral issues, increased attention span and an overall positive attitude. Our teachers do an excellent job getting students up and out of their seat, however, they do have constraints within the four walls of their classroom to safely elevate their students’ heart rate. This is one of the many reasons we encourage students to take a Physical Education class as well as use their free play time during lunch recess. With the spring months approaching and course selection upon us, I wanted to take the time to discuss our Physical Education (PE) requirement here at the middle school as well as our Middle School Athletic Program. Students may choose to take PE at any grade level. At the 6th and 8th grade level it is required to take at least one semester of PE. At the 7th Grade level, students may still choose PE, but are also required to take Health. 
 
We know that our students are very busy individuals and many of them are on after school club teams as well as after school academic clubs.   
 
There are many positive influences and benefits to participating in Physical Education. Many of the 21st century skills employers and universities are looking for can all be learned and practiced within a Physical Education classroom; these include communication, social skills, collaboration, leadership, flexibility (compromise) and being able to take initiative.  Our students do not need to be considered an athlete to be successful within the PE programming but rather show growth in the above areas as well as skill. Students can also learn these skills through our Middle School Competitive Athletics Program.        
 
Spring Sports
Winter sports are quickly coming to an end and Spring sports are getting ready to begin. If your son or daughter is interested in playing any spring sport, please make sure all information and paperwork is completed in Planet HS on our PRA website before March 9th. All spring sport tryouts start March 9th.  Information on individual sports can be found on Planet HS along with contact information for their coaches. Our Spring Sports Parent meeting starts at 5:30p.m. on Thursday March 12th.  This is a great time to come, get to know the coaches, ask questions and become familiar with our competitive sports programs.
 
Lastly, I’m so excited to announce that in the Spring 2021 Middle School will have its first ever Track and Field Team. This is extremely exciting and we look forward to parent volunteers in the near future for staffing and track meets.
 
Sports have played a major role in my life and to this day I still communicate and thank my high school and college coaches for teaching me many life lessons. I look forward to continuing working with your kids - seeing them grow and thrive using the social, emotional and physical skills within PE and athletics.   
 
MS Assistant Principal and Athletic Director
 
Casey Drzewiecki-Baldwin



 

Dear Parents,

The art of the conversation consists of much more than words. When speaking face to face, the non-verbal expressions of body language, tone of voice, and facial expressions convey as much, if not more, information than the words themselves. Learning to interpret these non-verbal cues is what makes us human. Learning to do this well is the foundation for conflict resolution, developing positive relationships, future success, and forming a positive community. Unfortunately, the digital era, with all of its benefits, often impedes our kids’ growth into healthy, mature adults and community members because it allows young people to communicate behind a screen instead of in person. 

Here in our middle school, we understand the importance of personal interactions and have consciously incorporated them into our daily routine. In-class group work, Access, clubs, recess, and lunch all facilitate growth through communication. Fostering our students’ ability to communicate is one of the factors that motivated us to remove mobile phones from our presence during the school day. It has been 2 1/2 years since we implemented this policy, and I wanted to revisit the origin of the policy for those who are new to our school.

After watching “Screenagers” in 2017, researching the negative effects of mobile phones on our students’ health and productivity, and bearing witness to phone-based conflicts arising in our school, I implemented a “no phone” policy in our middle school with the support of our board of directors. After 2 1/2 years, I can confidently say the policy has had a positive effect on achievement, conflict, and overall culture. Here is what I wrote at the beginning of the 2017-2018 school year (in italics):

“As we have learned from our viewing of “Screenagers” last Spring, and through academic research over the past 5 years, the presence of cell phones can be detrimental in many facets. The following are just a few:

  1. Prevent the development of empathy. Harken back to the days when you walked with a friend or a loved one and engaged in deep conversations about the “moon and the stars”. These conversations are a significant factor in the formation of empathy. Unfortunately, these conversations are becoming extinct in our youth. Rather than engaging in meaningful conversation, studies show that when kids are together, they talk about what they’re viewing on their phones. The superficial nature of these conversations are increasingly producing an apathetic generation.
  2. Brain Drain. Beyond the obvious distraction an active cell phone provide our students, studies show that the mere presence of a cell phone (regardless of owner, visible or not) reduces a person’s cognitive capacity (Ward, Duke, Gneezy & Bos, 2017). In other words, the thought of cell phones in the classroom occupies a meaningful portion of our student’s working memory to the point of reduced achievement on the day’s lesson.
  3. Social Media. Despite our best efforts to eliminate phone use during the school day, the temptation to visit social media, text, and take pictures during the school day often breaks the will of students with phones. Unfortunately, doing so has consequences. The link between social media, depression and self-esteem is real, and we face the risk of exacerbating the already fragile emotional minefield known as middle school. On the contrary, our goal at PRA is to empower our kids with the confidence and academic prowess they need to independently succeed in life.
  4. Conflict. See “3” above. Texting, pictures, Snapchat blasts, Instagram “stories”, and the like are ripe for conflict. In addition, the need to take away a student’s phone creates tension and needless conflict between students and staff. The additional conflict and strife arising from phones negatively affect our MS culture without any upside.
 

These are just a few examples of the negative impact of cell phones on our school culture and climate. I could list more, but the point remains: removal of phones will greatly improve our middle school environment by reducing conflict, stress, and the cognitive interruptions that come with their presence. Please join me in supporting PRA and our students. Also, please note that students with “technology” in their 504 plans or IEPs will still be allowed access to their phones as described in their accommodations.”

 

These words still apply today. Most importantly, removing phones in middle school has freed our kids to have conversations with each other, and this will yield a benefit to last a lifetime.

 

Thank you for your support and consideration.

 

Sincerely,

Steve Thygesen, Principal
Hi Families,
 
I wanted to check in with you this week with a short note on some upcoming events. Next week, I want to follow up with our viewing of Screenagers this Friday to talk about technology in education, the impact of technology on our kids, and how we formed our device policy based on recent research showing best practices for our kids. In the meantime, I want to thank you for being part of our wonderful community know as Prospect Ridge Academy, and to invite you to the following events:
 
Screenagers
 
Please join me for our viewing of Screenagers this Friday from 6:00 to 7:30 in our High School Commons. Screenagers is a thoughtful, real-world and real time film documenting the impact of digital devices and screen time on our kidas' mental and physical health. This documentary is entertaining, interesting, and a "must see" film for anyone worried about how to help our kids navigate their increasingly online world.
 
Watch Party
 
If you haven't seen by now, our very own Maddie Duran and her dance team "The Silhouettes" will be competing in the finals of "America's Got Talent" this coming Monday. I'm hosting a Watch Party from 6:45 to 8:15. This is a rare opportunity for us to celebrate a member of our community showing on national tv. Please join me for light conversation, entertaining tv, and a bit of nail biting as we watch the results come in.
 
Oh, and one more thing...it's cold out! Per our Student Handbook, we have outside recess at PRA if the temperature is 20 degrees or above. Please send your kids with a coat on cold days, as I'd like them to get their allotted social free time without their teeth chattering.
 
Have a great week.
 
Sincerely,
 
Steve Thygesen

Dear Parents,


We’re in the midst of the “dog days” of the year, that big stretch of school between our return from Winter Break and the end of March when Spring Break arrives just in time to revive our weary kids after three months of hard work. Inevitably, upon the realization that the road ahead is long, our middle schoolers often become anxious, which can manifest in the form of extra chatter in class, an increase in tardies, or the need to test the boundaries of our school expectations.


As a staff, we know this is the time of year to go above and beyond in supporting our kids with positive validations, while also staying firm on our school-wide expectations. Regarding the former, stay tuned for some special events we’re planning that will be fun community-builders to help remind us all why we love PRA. On the latter, we’re going to spend some time reviewing our longstanding expectations with our students that we’ve established in the interests of productivity and respect. This week, our topic is focused on “tardies”.


First, I’d like to acknowledge the tragic news from our district as of late and to let you know what we’re doing in middle school this week to address the situation. The middle school years can be difficult for our children, as physiological and psychological changes in the pre-teen years can wreak havoc on their emotional well being. Our kids need to know that they are loved and to be equipped with the tools to cope with difficult situations. One of my proudest boasts about our accomplishments at PRA is that we know your children's names, strengths, and needs. Not only is this a best practice as a teacher, but knowing and interacting with our students is why we do what we do. In addition to establishing positive relationships with our kids, we use our Access class to help build character and to instill the skills our kids will need to thrive as adults. This week in our 8th Grade Access classes (other grades to follow), Dr. Casado is going to speak with our students about coping strategies and available resources for them in times of need. Please speak with your kids on Thursday night about what they learned as a starting point for a positive family conversation.


Tardy Policy


The negative correlation between school absences and academic success is well established. But did you know the same negative correlation exists with tardies? It’s true - chronic tardiness begets reduced success in academics. Just as importantly, tardiness negatively affects learning for all of the students in class. Studies show that students in classes that experience kids walking in after the bell also show reduced academic performance. In addition, tardiness has a negative impact on school-wide culture. In short, tardiness negatively impacts the culprit, the class as a whole, and school-wide culture.


Unfortunately, we have seen an increase in tardiness this semester, and I’d like to articulate our policy and our next steps in the Middle School. Earlier this year we implemented a “Friday Afternoon Club” at PRA in place of academic recovery to address chronic tardiness. We started this policy in high school in October, and consciously waited until the second semester to implement it in the Middle School. Our “FAC” works as follows:


  1. To be “on time”, students need to be in the classroom, seated with materials out, and working on the daily “Warm Up” listed on the whiteboard. Students not doing all three of the above will be marked “Tardy” in IC.
  2. If a student has three tardies from Tuesday to Tuesday, he or she will be required to attend our “Friday Afternoon Club” (FAC) from 3:30 to 4:30 on the Friday of the violation notice.
  3. Students (and family) will receive their FAC notice on Wednesday morning.
  4. Students who have accumulated 10 tardies will be invited to a Problem-Solving Committee meeting to create supports to get to class on time, and to sign an attendance contract.

Our tardy policy is designed to help our students get prepared for high school and beyond. In life, being late has consequences, and it’s part of our accountability goal to help our kids understand the importance of living up to their commitments to the calendar. We ask for your support and affirmation with your students to help ensure that we have timely and productive classrooms at PRA.


Thank you for the privilege of working with your kids. It is an honor we don’t take lightly.


Sincerely,


Steve Thygesen, Principal





Dear PRA Middle School Community,
 
Welcome to the second semester of the 2019-2020 school year at Prospect Ridge Academy Middle School! As your children settle in to the long few months ahead, I want to take a few minutes to open the lines of communications this year and to let you know what is to come this semester.
 
Before I delve into the semester, I want to thank you again for your support during our first semester as an “independent” middle school. I am grateful to be a part of the caring, creative, and hard-working community that you have built over the years at Prospect Ridge. My years of experience remind me that I am lucky to be walking through our front doors every morning, and not a day goes by that I am not grateful to be here.
 
My goal is to use this space in the coming weeks to update you on various topics inside and outside of the classroom to help you learn more about our middle school, our culture, and what we are doing to help your kids get prepared for young adulthood. Next week, Ms. Pratt and I are going to discuss our upcoming “CMAS Season”. In addition, I want to cover topics that include iReady testing, Core Knowledge, devices in the classroom, relevant book studies, and more.
 
In the meantime, I want to bring attention to our wonderful middle school staff. This month, your children’s teachers are collaborating on classroom observations, where they are using video for a self-evaluation before moving forward with peer evaluations. Each team is working on a specific classroom instructional move with the ever present goal of improving their craft. Working collaboratively allows teachers to take on the role of evaluator and teacher in a non-threatening, positive environment. By March, we are all going to meet to articulate what we have learned and how to apply it to our practice.
 
We have had a productive start to our new semester, and I am looking forward to an enriching new year.
 
Thank you for the privilege to work with your amazing children.
 
Sincerely,

Steve Thygesen, Principal