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Cool Schools: Denver middle school focuses on building relationships

Compass Academy in southwest Denver started their "Pack Classes" so students can bond with peers and teachers.

DENVER — Compass Academy in southwest Denver is making middle school an easier transition for their 6th through 8th-grade students. 

The public charter middle school of about 260 students, is also called the ‘Lobo Family.’ The school started its pack classes centered on addressing student needs through relationship-building projects. 

At the start of each school day, teachers and students participate in various activities to encourage group interaction. Brandon Jones is the school’s executive director and said the goal is to help students feel supported.

“We’re 95% free and reduced lunch, 65% of our population is English language learners, roughly 16% of our population is served with an IEP (Individualized Education Program),” Jones said. “Our kids have experienced levels of trauma outside this school that most adults never will and they’re 12.”

According to the school, Compass opened in 2015 and has increased two levels on the School Performance Framework from red to green over the past few years. Ninety percent of their students are from economically challenged families. Jones said the pack classes are part of that success by offering a level of support that reaches outside of the classrooms.

Credit: Byron Reed
Compass Academy executive director, Brandon Jones.

“What the teachers are doing are trying to provide life skills and soft skills around communication, goal navigation, growth mindset, metacognition, advocacy,” Jones said. “Those are the types of things we see and feel from our kids that they need the most growth in, once we’re building that, the academics comes as a byproduct.”

Credit: Byron Reed

Aylin Morales is a 6th grader at the school. She said with the support she’s receiving from her teachers and administrators is helping her adjust to middle school.

Credit: Byron Reed
Compass Academy 6th grader Aylin Morales.

“They’re always supporting you. Even if you learn in a different way, they always support you,” Morales said. “This school always helps you learn differently…because they know that other students don’t always learn the same way.”

The school also provides a well-being department to help students and their families through tough times.

“The demographic we serve, they need support here at school but their families need support at home,” Jones said. “A lot of things we’re trying to work on to make sure that everybody’s getting what they need so the kids can be successful.”

Credit: Byron Reed

Jones said that relationship building is a mission that starts before the first bell of the school year for the students and continues throughout the year. The hope is that programs like the pack class will help build the students’ social/emotional well-being.

“They’re coming from elementary school, so this is a huge transition, and we give them a nice easy start to it.”

Learn more information about Compass Academy




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