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A big milestone for BOLT Academy

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District 27J’s hybrid online/classroom academy marks its first graduate

By Crystal Nelson

BRIGHTON — Students at BOLT Academy are beginning to see success. The academy held its first graduation this month for senior Miranda Whetstone, and has about 40 more students well on their way to reaching their goals. 

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Principal Jennifer Alexander believes students are already beginning to see some success with School District 27J’s partially classroom-based, online school. 

“Of course we’re still first-year, halfway through. We haven’t seen the results of TCAP or anything like that but for us, we feel that our biggest success… is the confidence we’ve seen grow in our students,” she said. 

Alexander believes the confidence comes from the staff celebrating the smallest successes — whether it’s being able to show up to classes on time, celebrating when students do well on tests or when they complete a class — because success begets success.

Because the school is small, Alexander said they’ve been able to build an environment that’s supportive and filled with encouragement. The academy provides a self-directed learning environment where students get to work at their own pace.

Alexander said it’s her role to see how students are doing, then assist, tutor and help them manage their time.

“We really try to help them figure out what they want to do and what their goals are and then we help figure out what pace they need to do to meet those goals,” she said.

Sophomore Shereese Maes has a lot going on at home and appreciates that the school is flexible and how staff help keep her on track. 

“I’m behind in my credits so they help us get to where we can catch up on our credits or get ahead if we want to,” she said “I’m almost caught up. I think by the end of the semester I’ll be caught up.”

Maes has set a goal to graduate on time, which she said would not be possible if she was enrolled in a more traditional high school.

During the school day, students attending BOLT Academy attend school in two cohorts — an 8 a.m. to 1 p.m. cohort or a 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. cohort — Monday through Thursday. What they don’t finish in class, they complete on their own time. 

This schedule is perfect for senior Stepon Kotov, who is attending the academy while holding a full-time job at Denver International Airport. Kotov, who attends school in the morning, said he has to be to work for 3 p.m., which is around the time high schools typically end. 

Despite his busy schedule, he is six credits away from graduating in the spring, and really enjoys the academy.

“I like it. It’s easier than normal education because the schedule here is better because I have work to go to, usually afterwards, and I can continue (school) at home when I have time,” he said. 

Freshman Ryleigh Johnson said attending BOLT Academy is really fun. She started attending the academy when it opened in September and said her parents, along with herself, believe she is learning so much more than she would in a public school.

She said she likes that she is presented the material without the distractions, that the workload is manageable and that there are teachers there to support her. She said she would encourage students to attend the academy.

“It’s a fun way to get through school. I mean, yeah, sitting at a computer can be boring, but you’ve got to push through it because it’s not the hardest thing in the world,” she said.