A Montezuma-Cortez High School teacher is proposing a dormitory-style development program for high school students.
Deb McVicker, who teaches media, computers and math at M-CHS, told Cortez City Council members May 10 that providing a dorm option for 5 to 10 percent of the high school's 630 students would improve graduation rates.
"Many students go home to an environment where they cannot complete their studies," McVicker said. "A dorm would provide them a safer environment."
The dorm would be open to 25-30 students at M-CHS, from freshmen to seniors, McVicker said. In order to be given the privilege to live at the dorm, students would meet rigorous guidelines and be very serious about graduating, she said.
McVicker said the idea came to her after she housed a student in her home for three months last year. The student, a senior, would go home from school, and her parents would have her work at the family business until 9 or 10 p.m. every night, McVicker said. The student would not have energy or time to complete homework after working, and she was in danger of not graduating.
With the consent of her parents, McVicker invited the student into her home and put her on a strict schedule. She would get home from school, exercise, do chores and finish homework and be in bed by 9 p.m. every night. The student traveled to and from M-CHS with McVicker.
The student graduated from M-CHS and is enrolled in a culinary arts school in Boulder. She's on track to graduate with a culinary arts degree in a few months, McVicker said.
When asked about others who might benefit from a similar situation, McVicker said the student told her there were many M-CHS students who would benefit.
"We have that need," McVicker said. "Students need to go home to somewhere where they are encouraged to do homework and to graduate."
McVicker said she had discussed the project with Montezuma-Cortez Re-1 Superintendent Lori Haukeness, but had not approached the Re-1 Board of Education. Haukeness has said the district's graduation rates are improving, but she also identified raising the rate as a priority for her tenure as superintendent.
McVicker said similar facilities exist in Shiprock and Bloomfield, New Mexico. In Shiprock, two students share a room and a bathroom, she said. There's a common area with a pool table and a TV, and a dorm parent supervises the students, she said.
M-CHS architecture students are working on drafting design plans for a facility in Cortez, McVicker said. A building would need to be within walking distance of the main M-CHS building, she said.
McVicker told council members she was exploring funding options and asked for suggestions from the city.
Mayor Karen Sheek said McVicker should visit the facilities in New Mexico to see how they operate. Council members did not take a vote on McVicker's proposal or commit any funds toward it, but they were receptive to her idea.
"It definitely has potential," Sheek said.
City Manager Shane Hale said the city has been supportive of education and youths. He told McVicker the Colorado Housing and Finance Authority might offer some suggestions.
The proposed budget for the dorm would include food for the students, McVicker said. An annual budget for the dorm could be close to $1 million, she said.
Some students are supportive of the idea and were prepared to write formal letters endorsing a dorm, McVicker added.
"I really feel this would be a positive move for the district," she said. "I really feel we need this as a district. It's a burden on my heart."