Editor's note: This article is the fourth in a six-part series about alternate education options in Pueblo West.
While the vast percentage of District 70 students graduate high school – 84.5 percent to be exact – some wouldn't ever walk across the stage to get their high school diploma unless they got a little help.
That's where 70 Online comes in.
70 Online, an alternative education campus serving students in grades K-12, provides an option for District 70 students that need more individualized attention or are simply struggling at a mainstream, brick-and-mortar school for one reason or another.
Dr. Beverly Maestas, the principal of 70 Online, said the school caters to students that are considered "at-risk" according to standards laid out by the Colorado Department of Education.
"There are 16 qualifying factors," Maestas said, "such as students with attendance issues, students that suffer from anxiety, teen parents, those with medical issues and discipline issues, a number of other qualifying factors as determined by CDE."
Its students are more successful in the individualized setting at 70 Online, Maestas said, and the proof of that excellence is obvious in its statistics.
In just five years, the school has grown from a strictly-online school of 28 students to its current size as a 200-student alternative school. It has also earned a "performance" rating from the Colorado Department of Education, the highest rating a school can achieve in Colorado.
The school has grown so quickly, it moved in to the former Baxter School building on the St. Charles Mesa that also serves as District 70's administrative headquarters. In Pueblo West, a more local wing of the school runs out of Desert Sage Elementary, but the school is looking to move to a larger building in Pueblo West, as well.
"We are exploring the possibility of moving to another site," Maestas said, "and we are very actively seeking a new building as early as (early 2019)."
Like other online education options, 70 Online offers resources for home-schooled children or kids simply seeking an educational path outside of the traditional school setting. But what truly sets it apart is its ability to provide quality education while still maintaining all the features of a traditional District 70 school, as well as its ability to serve at-risk students in a blended educational environment.
Students are required to ideally attend classes at one of its physical locations for either a morning session or an afternoon session, then completing their remaining coursework online. Some attend daily in abbreviated school days while others have flexible scheduling arrangements based on their needs.
"Most students come two times per week," Maestas said, "but we're flexible based on the specific personal needs of the student."
The small class sizes (10 to 15 students) and more individualized, one-on-one attention makes 70 Online a viable option for those not willing to fully detach from traditional schooling, but seeking something different that better caters to their child's specific needs.
"The standard online school," Maestas said, "can have a teacher in another state, but our teachers are here and can provide immediate feedback."
With the attention and expertise of 17 full-time, state-qualified state-certified teachers at its three locations, which includes a location in Rye in addition to the Baxter and Desert Sage locations, any child can flourish at 70 Online, Maestas said.
"We can meet the needs of every type of student," Maestas said. "We have three full-time ESS (Exceptional Student Services) teachers as well as have access to the gamut of specialists, like a school psychologist and nurses, by virtue of us being a District 70 school. Because traditional school can be overwhelming, we can offer these students something more intimate."
It can provide this personalized approach because each student is assigned a mentor to assist them as "students keep on track toward graduation, which is our ultimate goal," Maestas said.
In addition, 70 Online provides students the ability to participate in athletics and activities at their home schools. High school students in Pueblo West could attend 70 Online, but still play basketball at Pueblo West High School and be in its marching band, and that translates to college eligibility in terms of playing collegiate athletics.
"We are NCAA-accredited school," Maestas said, "which means that student-athletes can come to our school and be sure that our school meets the academic rigors for NCAA eligibility."
With all of these features, 70 Online has the highest graduation rate among similar schools, Maestas said, and she regularly sees graduates that thank her for what 70 Online did for them.
"I am very proud of the successes we've attained," Maestas said. "We have a team effort, we have great support from the (District 70 Board of Education) and the administration, and see the fruits of our labors through our results with kids. I recently went out to dinner and a student who graduated last year told me 'you'll never know the different this school has made in my life. Your program saved me.'"
Parents interested in enrolling their child in 70 Online can call (719) 562-0468. There is a short waiting list for positions, Maestas said.