Colorado SpringsEducationNews

Colorado Springs-area schools taking a day to plan, reflect on 4/20

Author: Debbie Kelley, The Gazette - April 20, 2018 - Updated: April 23, 2018

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In this March 2018 file photograph, an orange ribbons adorns a fence after it was tied there by a student during a walkout to protest gun violence on the soccer field behind Columbine High School in Littleton. Students at high schools across the country are expected to walk out of classes Friday, the 19th anniversary of the Columbine shooting, in their latest push for gun control. But they won’t be protesting at the Colorado school where the violence took place. (AP Phoot/David Zalubowski, File)

Friday, a time to remember victims of the 1999 Columbine shooting, but also a celebration for pot smokers, is a day like any other at some Pikes Peak region schools.

Other schools are purposely closed this year, and some coincidentally aren’t holding classes.

The five schools in Woodland Park School District RE-2 won’t be in session Friday.

“It’s a challenging date for Colorado schools and especially this year in our school district,” said spokeswoman Stacy Schubloom.

Friday is the 19th anniversary of the shooting at Columbine High School in Littleton, when two students killed 12 classmates and one teacher. April 20, or 4/20, is also a pseudo national holiday for marijuana consumption.

This year, it’s also a second nationwide student walkout, with organizers advocating for stricter gun laws in the wake of the Feb. 14 shooting at a high school in Parkland, Fla. A similar event was held at schools across the nation in March, on the one-month anniversary of the shooting, in which 17 students and staff were killed by a former student.

On social media, Columbine Principal Scott Christy called for the anniversary to be a day of service projects, not protests.

“We know another walkout has been promoted by various groups, however, in Jeffco (Jefferson County) the month of April has long been a time to respectfully remember our losses and also support the efforts to make our communities a better place,” he wrote.

The 2,500 students in Woodland Park RE-2 have always attended school on the Columbine anniversary. But after a credible threat closed RE-2 schools for two days in late February, board members decided to close schools on April 20 this year and every year going forward, Schubloom said.

“It’s a hard day anyway,” she said.

After-school activities and sporting events will be held as usual.

Woodland Park police identified the student who issued the threat against the school, which was written on a bathroom wall in the high school, but have not said whether criminal charges have been filed. The investigation remains “open and active,” according to police.

The student has been expelled, Schubloom said.

A “collaboration day” that had been scheduled for next Friday was moved to this week, so RE-2 teachers, staff and administrators will be working on planning, training and other activities on Friday, she said.

Students also are off Friday in the second-largest district in Colorado Springs, Academy School District 20, which has 25,830 students.

It’s been a tradition for years, said spokeswoman Allison Cortez.

“Historically, Academy District 20 has not held class on April 20, as a sign of respect for the Columbine tragedy,” she said.

Instead, the district schedules a “professional learning day” for teachers and staff with guest speakers and events to hone skills.

Students in Colorado Springs School District 11, the largest in the area with about 27,400 students, also will have the day off. School is normally held on 4/20, but this year coincides with a pre-planned collaboration day, in which groups of teachers work together to identify how to improve academic achievement, said D-11 spokeswoman Devra Ashby.

“Usually around this time of the year we have a collaboration day, and this year it unintentionally happened to fall on April 20,” she said.

The same goes for Thomas MacLaren School, a state-authorized charter school for middle and high school students that’s expanding in the fall to include elementary grades.

Friday’s in-service day is a time for extended staff meetings, planning sessions and other internal work, said spokeswoman Katherine Brophy.

“Things we can’t do on a regular school day,” she said.

Schools in Falcon School District 49, the region’s third largest district, will be open Friday, with possible walkouts planned at 10 a.m., involving students who support gun reform, according to a national school walkout website.

Debbie Kelley, The Gazette

Debbie Kelley, The Gazette