Sitting right across the street from one another in c are two of the oldest, most diverse schools you’ll find in the Jeffco School District.
Both founded in 1955, the buildings have age and history in common. They’re also undergoing much-needed renovations as part of the District’s 2018 Bond and Capital Improvement Program.
But this year, the two schools share something new. Both have new leadership in the form of enthusiastic Principals, excited to take the reins during this challenging time.
Lindsay Petty, Lumberg’s new leader, is a first-time Principal. She said the first day of the 2021 schoolyear was amazing.
“It was great,” she said. “The kids were excited to be here, and the parents were so happy to have their kids back in school.”
She said a lot of families who did remote learning last year have opted for in-person school again this year.
“I think for the most part, everyone is back at that place where they understand that we have the best interest of their kids at heart, in health and instruction, and parents are feeling safe to have them be a part of the school again.
She’s thrilled to see kids engaging with friends and educators in person again — rebuilding some of the social skills delayed by remote learning.
When it comes to making up learning losses the pandemic has caused, Petty says summer programs at nearby Edgewater Elementary and the Edgewater Collective program to support grades 4-6, have helped but she knows there’s still work to be done.
“We have a long way to go, and I think everybody does,” she said. “We are very fortunate that Lumberg kept all but two teachers from last year. I think that says a lot about the climate of the school and how teachers value the work we do here.”
Asked about the effect the District’s hiring difficulties have had on her school, Petty said they’ve been hugely affected in the area of social worker / psychology staff.
“We have yet to have an applicant for a social worker position,” she said. “That is our biggest hurdle right now.”
Bond construction has given Lumberg a new wing with a music room and flex space that will be used for teacher learning, assemblies and eventually new classroom space for students.
Petty says the school is hoping to see increased enrollment to bring the student body population up to around 400 children.
Just across Pierce Street, Jefferson Jr/Sr High School is a beehive of activity. There’s still construction being finished in front of the school, with fresh sod being laid to the side of a brand-new entrance.
Inside, students are already taking advantage of new common space to chat, study or just hang out for a few minutes during their lunch hour.
Administration staff have new workspaces, including a bright office filled with natural light for Principal, Jessica Garza. It’s Garza’s first year at the helm of Jefferson, but she served as Principal of Rose Stein Elementary during 2020-21.
Garza is a proud first-generation college graduate who originally hails from Texas. Her bilingual abilities and LatinX background give her a lot of common ground with students in her school.
She’s been with the district for six years and brimming with excitement for the year to come.
“The teachers are beyond ready,” she said. “They’re full of energy and excitement. The new building has just brought such a sense of value to the community.”
Garza said the students are also ecstatic to be back.
“There’s been so many smiles, a sense of peace, a sense of calm, a sense of reconnection,” she said. “And masks have not been a barrier.”
The improvements to the aging building are a welcome sight for everyone, Garza says, but especially the students and families. She says everyone is literally in awe of all of the work that’s taken place at the school. Aside from new construction, Jefferson received new carpet, paint and furniture including desks in the renovated wings.
Sophomore, Ronald Hurtado, is a big fan of the new look of the place, but he’s even happier to see so many students back in school. As for the last-minute changes in masking policy, Hurtado says it’s not such a big deal.
While giving a sneak-peek of the school’s new auxiliary gym, Garza reflects on what she’s looking forward to the most for the upcoming year. Making sure in-person learning stays viable and connecting with families are high on her list.
Healing the community and bringing back a sense of academic excellence are also at the top of her list of priorities.
“I hope that my leadership as a bilingual Latina with deep roots in the LatinX community can bring the leadership that Jefferson really needs,” she says.
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