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Old school, but not the good way

By Katie Langford
02/05/2016

Teachers and staff at Orchard Mesa Middle School are dealing with safety risks and structural problems as best they can, but at some point, it may be time for the community to step in. Principal Cheri Vana said there are more than 25 exterior doors at the school, making securing the campus close to impossible — that’s one of a long list of problems facing the 56-year-old school. “I just want the community to know that we’re doing the best job we can and the ...


Central High evacuated for small fire

By Katie Langford
02/05/2016

Central High School was evacuated Friday morning after an external sawdust filter system overheated and caught fire. The fire caused smoke to enter the building, and students and staff were evacuated for 30 minutes. The fire was put out and the tech lab, which was most affected, will be closed for the rest of the day. Classes resumed as normal, according to District 51.  ...


Floating in space 24/7

By Katie Langford
02/04/2016

Astronaut and International Space Station Commander Scott Kelly spoke to 800 students from across the Western Slope on Thursday through a live video call to the space station. Floating in midair, Kelly talked to students about what it’s like to live in zero gravity, what he does every day, and that despite his prestigious job title, he stays up and sleeps in later than he’s supposed to. Colorado Mesa University senior and education major Madison Everett was a main event ...


Thieves prey
 on motorists 
who turn on 
vehicle, leave

By Katie Langford
02/03/2016

A spate of vehicle thefts across Mesa County during December and January all involved cars left unattended with the keys inside, according to the Grand Junction Police Department and Mesa County Sheriff’s Office. Of the 16 reported thefts, 11 were cars left running and unattended, also known as “puffers.” The most recent theft occurred on Tuesday. Police spokeswoman Heidi Davidson said the number of “puffer” thefts this winter was unusually high. “I ...


School board mulls start times for schools

By Katie Langford
02/02/2016

District 51 school board members are juggling several options for how to improve the efficiency of school bus routes, shorten walk distances for students and change start times for high school students to later in the morning. In October, the school board asked district administration and staff at the district’s bus provider, Student Transportation of America, to study how much it would cost to change start times for high school students. Previously, the cost to change all schools ...


CMU trustees mull diversity in strategic plan

By Katie Langford
01/30/2016

Every five years, Colorado Mesa University faculty and staff look at how the university is succeeding and where it needs to improve. Among the various successful goals from CMU’s strategic plan, hiring diverse faculty and staff is a continuing struggle. For example, one of the goals for 2010 was to hire “faculty from diverse backgrounds who have teaching as their highest priority as well as a commitment to scholarly activity, advising, and service to the University and ...


Google classroom

By Katie Langford
01/29/2016

Learning is going to be a little easier for students at two District 51 middle schools, thanks to 90 laptop computers donated Friday by the Western Colorado Community Foundation and District 51 Foundation.  Grand Mesa Middle School received 60 new Google Chromebooks and East Middle School received 30 new Chromebooks to help with implementing performance-based learning. Grand Mesa and East are two of the eight demonstration schools in District 51 that are trying out a ...


Mesa grad emphasizes brotherhood in defense of Libya embassy

By Katie Langford
01/28/2016

For military veteran and ex-security contractor Kris “Tanto” Paronto, the 13 hours he spent fighting for his country and his life in Benghazi, Libya, isn’t about politics or government investigations. It’s about brotherhood, faith and the sacrifices his team made on the night of Sept. 11, 2012. Paronto, an alumnus of Central High School and Colorado Mesa University, spent an hour speaking to almost 300 CMU students on Wednesday. Most of Paronto’s ...


Student arrested after threats to shoot others

By Katie Langford
01/27/2016

A Parachute teenager who threatened to “shoot up the school” last week is in police custody, according to the Parachute Police Department. A 15-year-old male student at Grand Valley High School made verbal threats several days in a row, Police Chief Cary Parmenter said, and officers responded to a call at the school at 8 a.m. on Friday. Witnesses at the school said the student threatened the school and might have a list with names of students he was targeting. The student ...


District 51 ends intersessions for youngest students

By Katie Langford
01/27/2016

After two years, School District 51 has decided to discontinue intersessions, the extra academic support offered to elementary and middle school students over fall and spring breaks. Deb Bailey, executive director of middle schools, said declining student attendance is part of the reason district administration decided to shutter the program. “There was a benefit to students, but we just felt we could repurpose the money so that it could meet more kids on a more immediate basis, ...


CMU students visit Capitol, meet legislators

By Katie Langford
01/25/2016

Colorado Mesa University students traded their textbooks for a trip to the state Capitol on Thursday and Friday for the Voices of Rural Colorado Denver Legislative trip. Thirteen students from CMU’s political science club met with state representatives and senators to learn about policy, bipartisan cooperation and more. CMU junior Lucille Benoit said she was surprised by how well everyone seemed to get along. “It’s not nearly as polarized and partisan as you’d ...


Ready to quit smoking?

By Katie Langford
01/25/2016

Quitting smoking isn’t easy, and that’s why four Grand Junction medical organizations are working together to motivate people to make the hard but healthy choice. The Mesa County Smokeout is a collaborative effort to 
encourage 
people to stop smoking, said Katie Goddeyne, Mesa County Health Department spokeswoman. “It is hard and frustrating at times, but personally I think it’s easier to hang in there if there’s someone doing it with ...


Monument seeks more volunteers

By Katie Langford
01/24/2016

Cary Atwood used to teach indoors, but she is finding a new use for her skills in the great outdoors. The retired school teacher has been loving her work volunteering at Colorado National Monument for the past three years and thinks others might enjoy volunteering there, too. “It’s connecting kids to an environment that is in their backyard,” Atwood said. “Especially for a lot of kids for who maybe classrooms aren’t positive settings, when they’re ...


Five cars left running to ‘warm up’ on cold day driven away by thief

By Katie Langford
01/23/2016

Five drivers in Grand Junction and Clifton tried to avoid driving cold cars on Saturday morning. But their efforts led to lessons in why leaving cars running while warming them up is a bad idea. Each had their vehicles stolen. The “puffer” thefts occurred in a string of related incidents beginning shortly after 5 a.m. After stealing a car in the 300 block of Summer Glen Drive, near the Grand Junction Regional Center on Riverside Parkway, an unknown suspect stole a second car ...


Survey: District 51 educators are fed up

By Katie Langford
01/23/2016

Hundreds of teachers in School District 51 feel stressed out, unsupported by district administration and are spending more than half of their planning time on things not related to teaching students, according to a survey conducted by the local teacher’s association. The Mesa Valley Education Association sent a survey to its members and received 626 responses, close to half of the total number of teachers and counselors in District 51. The survey results are proof that teachers are ...


Woman lauded for CPR at crash scene

By Katie Langford
01/23/2016

When Crystal Brickey saw a bicyclist lying in the street after being hit by a car, she didn’t stop to think — she started performing CPR immediately. She isn’t an emergency medical technician and she doesn’t work at a hospital, but her CPR training helped save the man’s life. Brickey was honored with the Life-Saving Award at the 10th annual Emergency Medical Service and Fire Conference on Saturday. Fidel Garcia, an EMT and founder of Professional EMS ...


School District 51 circulates religious flier; atheists object

By Katie Langford
01/23/2016

School District 51 came under fire this week for sending out a flier about a Christian event to subscribers of its email list, most of whom are parents and students. The flier listed the “Wake Up, Sleeping Beauty” seminar, a Christian-based event focused on “how this generation is being manipulated to worship fame, false intimacy, false security and self,” according to the Wake Up Ministries website. The seminar is open to the public but tailored toward middle- and ...


Low prices pump us up

By Katie Langford
01/22/2016

With gas prices the lowest they’ve been in years, some Grand Junction residents are cautiously optimistic about the savings, while others are taking more trips and also buying gas-guzzling trucks and sport utility vehicles. Seth Rosa, general sales manager at Ed Bozarth Chevrolet Buick in Grand Junction, said buyers are no longer avoiding larger vehicles. “People don’t shy away from the SUVs like when the gas prices were high,” Rosa said. “I think ...


State traffic deaths hit 7-year high

By Katie Langford
01/19/2016

Traffic deaths in Colorado hit a seven-year high in 2015, a spike in an otherwise downward trend of fatalities on state highways, Colorado Department of Transportation officials said Tuesday. Traffic accidents caused 545 deaths in 2015, a 10 percent increase from 2014. Motorcycle deaths were at a record high with 104 fatalities. Shailen Bhatt, executive director of CDOT, said there were a number of reasons for the rise, including a population increase and low gas prices causing more ...


Palisade teen guilty of making threats at school

By Katie Langford
01/15/2016

A Palisade teenager who threatened to bring a gun to school in December entered a guilty plea at the Mesa County Justice Center on Friday. Shauntelle Wilson, 13, pleaded guilty to interference with staff, faculty or students at an educational institution, a class one misdemeanor, and will be sentenced to probation on Wednesday. Wilson, an eighth-grade student at Mount Garfield Middle School, posted a picture of a handgun on Facebook on Dec. 13, with the caption, ‘I have a gun in ...


Student pleads guilty in gun threat

By Katie Langford
01/15/2016

A Palisade teenager who threatened to bring a gun to school in December entered a guilty plea at the Mesa County Justice Center on Friday. Shauntelle Wilson, 13, posted a picture of a handgun on Facebook on Dec. 13 and later told a classmate at Mount Garfield Middle School she was “gonna go shoot up the school now,” according to the arrest affidavit. Wilson appeared before Magistrate William McNulty to enter the plea, in which she pleaded guilty to interfering with school ...


Prison 
for men 
in grisly 
death

By Katie Langford
01/13/2016

Two hunters responsible for the October 2013 death of a motorcyclist on Colorado Highway 92 were sentenced to prison by a Montrose County District judge on Wednesday. Mark Anthony Valdez, 49, of Delta, and Kevin Lee Keener, 45, of Anton, pled guilty in the death of Trever Rawson. Rawson was driving on Highway 92 on Oct. 12, 2013, when he collided with a rope and chain that Valdez and Keener had stretched across the highway in order to tow an elk carcass out of the woods with a truck. ...


Hunters get prison time in grisly motorcyle death

By Katie Langford
01/13/2016

Two hunters responsible for the October 2013 death of a motorcyclist on Colorado Highway 92 were sentenced to prison by a Montrose County District judge on Wednesday. Mark Anthony Valdez, 49, of Delta and Kevin Lee Keener, 45, of Anton pled guilty in the death of Trever Rawson. Rawson was driving on Highway 92 on Oct. 12, 2013, when he collided with a rope and chain that Valdez and Keener had stretched across the highway in order to tow an elk carcass out of the woods with a truck. ...


Casebier 
in run for
 Montrose 
council

By Katie Langford
01/12/2016

Businessman Doug Casebier announced his candidacy for the Montrose County Board of Commissioners Saturday, the first Montrose resident to announce their intent for the District 3 seat. Casebier, a Montrose County native and longtime resident, said he intends to use his extensive business experience to benefit and unite the county. His son, Todd, is the football coach at Fruita Monument High School. “I looked around for a candidate I could get behind for a good long while, and all ...


Traffic jam on the road to riches

By Katie Langford
01/12/2016

It’s more likely you will become the president of the United States or be drafted by the National Basketball Association than win the $1.4 billion Powerball jackpot, but that hasn’t stopped Grand Valley residents from flocking to ticket kiosks and convenience stores this month. It’s the largest in world history, and Colorado Lottery spokeswoman Kelly Tabor said from Jan. 1-9, Colorado Powerball sales rocketed to $22.8 million, compared to $1.4 million for the same week ...


Therapy dogs reduce stress at school

By Katie Langford
01/10/2016

Yogi, an 8-year-old golden retriever, spends most of his days sprawled behind East Middle School teacher Jennifer Quigley’s desk. He’s so quiet that Quigley calls him her silent classroom member, but every day, Yogi provides emotional support for the students and staff at East Middle School. Yogi is a trained and certified therapy dog, one of a dwindling number of therapy dogs in District 51. “School is a lot more stressful than when I went to school, and kids will ...


Girl Scouts meet with local business leaders

By Katie Langford
01/09/2016

Grand Junction businesswomen and professionals came together Saturday to share with local middle and high school girls that no careers are out of reach, whether it’s as a doctor, artist or business owner. Girl Scouts of Colorado organized the mixer as an opportunity to inspire girls to think outside the box in terms of their future, spokeswoman Allison Ellington said. “There’s so many great professionals here in the valley that girls don’t really think about ...


Keys to a brand new life

By Katie Langford
01/09/2016

When Sarah Balerio was handed the keys to her new home on Saturday, it was more than a milestone for her and her five children. It was the start of a new life. Balerio became the 66th person to own a home built by Habitat for Humanity in Mesa County, and dozens of friends, family members and Habitat staff crowded into her new living room to help her celebrate. “She has worked through a tremendous amount of difficult events,” Habitat board member Doug Sorter said at the ...


Dairy owner: We could use help

By Katie Langford
01/09/2016

Graff Dairy owner Darin Carei wants to reopen the dairy’s doors in time for the warm spring weather, but he needs the community’s help to outfit the ice creamery with new, up-to-code equipment. Carei bought Graff Dairy in June, nine months after longtime owner Dave Nichols closed the doors. In the process of getting the operation recertified with the health department, Carei was informed he would need to replace most of the equipment the dairy had used. “The new ...


Film challenges education systems

By Katie Langford
01/07/2016

District 51 Foundation members sparked discussions about education after a documentary screening about project-based learning at the Avalon Theatre on Thursday. The documentary “Most Likely to Succeed” reviews the origins of public education, dating to the Industrial Revolution, and points out the disparities in teaching 21st century children with a model that was designed originally to educate factory workers. The film focuses on a group of charter schools in San Diego called ...


Next year’s juniors to take SAT in place of ACT

By Katie Langford
01/05/2016

This year will likely be the last for Colorado 11th-graders to take the ACT college entrance exam, before districts across the state switch to the SAT exam to measure students’ readiness for college. The Colorado Department of Education announced the change on Dec. 23, and initially ruled that this year’s juniors would be required to take the SAT instead of the ACT. That abrupt change was both a shock and a concern for District 51 staff, said Matt Diers, executive director ...


Avalon documentary will show learning based on performance

By Katie Langford
01/02/2016

Parents, students and community members can see how a unique high school in California models performance-based learning during a free showing of the film “Most Likely To Succeed” at 6:30 p.m. Thursday at the Avalon Theatre. The documentary focuses on the evolution of education, specifically at High Tech High, which began as a single charter school in San Diego and has grown to 13 schools spanning kindergarten to 12th grade at three campuses. The screening is sponsored by the ...


Co-op moves closer to broadband

By Katie Langford
01/02/2016

The Delta-Montrose Electric Association (DMEA) will move forward with the installation of fiber optic cables across Delta and Montrose counties, after its board of directors voted unanimously this week to start the pilot phase of a broadband service program. The electricity cooperative started to explore providing broadband Internet to its members more than a year ago, co-op spokeswoman Virginia Harman said. “It’s just an extension of going in that direction,” Harman ...


New Year’s baby a week late

By Katie Langford
01/02/2016

Aksel Christian Beckham Irion was supposed to be his parents’ perfect Christmas present, but his birth made for an equally joyous New Year’s Day. Aksel was born at 2 a.m. Friday at St. Mary’s Hospital to Amanda Osborn and Lars Irion of Grand Junction. He was the first baby born in 2016 in Mesa County. At 7 pounds, 4 ounces and 18 inches, his parents think “he’s a pretty cool little dude.” “He was due Christmas Eve, so he was a little ...


Taxi hit by domestic violence suspect

By Katie Langford
01/02/2016

A 23-year-old Missouri man was arrested Wednesday on charges of felony menacing, reckless endangerment, domestic violence and reckless driving, after an incident in July where he allegedly crashed his truck into a taxi carrying his pregnant wife. In the early morning hours of July 28, according to an arrest affidavit, Isaac Sawyer, 23, pulled up next to a taxi transporting his 19-year-old wife to the Grand Junction Regional Airport and allegedly began yelling at her The taxi was stopped ...


Family asks for help finding missing woman

By Katie Langford
12/31/2015

Delta police are searching for a woman who was last seen in their town after a solo ski vacation at southwest Colorado ski resort, and the woman may have been experiencing mental health issues at the time she disappeared. Lacey Oar was last seen in Delta on Monday and last spoke with her family early that morning, said David Vonderhaar, Oar’s brother. “I last heard from her … at about two in the morning,” Vonderhaar said Thursday. “She has a history of ...


No. 4 story of 2015: Pitton makes it onto school board

By Katie Langford
12/31/2015

When football coach and math teacher Paul Pitton filed a petition to run as a District 51 school board candidate earlier this year, he started a sequence of events that would turn an odd-year election seat into a case before the Colorado Supreme Court. Pitton mistakenly filed to be and was certified as a District B candidate, when he actually lived in District D. Ballots listing him as one of three District B candidates were printed and mailed to thousands of Mesa County ...


Task force to provide meeting on concussions

By Katie Langford
12/30/2015

The Grand Junction medical community is trying to raise awareness about head injuries in children and young adults, and an upcoming town hall meeting to facilitate public discussion happened to coincide with the release of a Hollywood sports drama, “Concussion,” on the same topic. “We want to get the information out to as many people as we can about concussion management, and that involves anyone who may have been exposed to it,” said Dr. Greg Doyle, chair of the ...


No. 8 story of 2015: Students opt out of standardized tests

By Katie Langford
12/29/2015

District 51 students and parents joined a national conversation — and movement — in 2015, when many of them spoke up about perceived excesses in conjunction with new standardized testing by opting out. Those new testing requirements, adoption of them across the school district, and the subsequent surge in opt-outs by area parents was voted The Daily Sentinel’s number eight story of 2015. The new Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers (PARCC) test ...


U.S. Forest Service aims to protect ranch

By Katie Langford
12/28/2015

The pristine views, forest and abundant wildlife at a 2,448-acre ranch in Ridgway will be preserved for generations to come through a conservation easement recently secured by the U.S. Forest Service. Privately owned Sawtooth Mountain Ranch includes water rights to 11 springs and more than 20 ponds and has views of Mount Sneffels, Cimarron Ridge and Ridgway State Park. “This is a highly visible and extraordinarily scenic ranch,” said Jim Petterson, Colorado director of The ...


Bowlers in blue

By Katie Langford
12/28/2015

Dozens of children teamed up with Grand Junction law enforcement officers to battle it out in the bowling lanes for the Grand Junction Police Department’s annual Bowl with a Cop event Monday. The event began at Orchard Mesa Lanes in the early 1980s, said Katie Berland, community relations coordinator for the Police Department, but this is the first year the Mesa County Sheriff’s Office and Colorado State Patrol have joined in the fun. “It’s a really great ...


App allows school-bus tracking

By Katie Langford
12/26/2015

Figuring out when a School District student’s school bus will arrive is now as easy as a swipe and tap with the new SafeStop application, which uses global positioning system technology to track school buses and update parents on arrival times and alerts. “SafeStop was created to provide parents with peace of mind,” said Patrick Gallagher, director of sales for SafeStop. Previously, the GPS data from school buses was only used by staff at Student Transportation, Inc. ...


Heroes come in all sizes

By Katie Langford
12/23/2015

When 10-year-old Haiden Willis found his mom having a seizure in the bedroom of their Grand Junction home, he didn’t freak out. He held her hand, told her it was going to be OK and called 911. Then he let himself freak out. “I just said, please help, please help, please help,” Haiden said. “(The dispatcher) asked where I lived, and (said) that she’d stay on the phone with me, and to keep calm.” His mom, Beth Willis, was 37 weeks pregnant, and ...


‘A serious problem’ for charity

By Katie Langford
12/23/2015

In the Salvation Army chapel a few miles from the holiday bustle at retail stores, there’s a whole different kind of busy. Volunteers hurry between rows of toy-filled boxes and pallets of food stacked seven feet high. This year, the Salvation Army is playing the part of Santa for 3,000 Mesa County children who wouldn’t otherwise have presents to open on Christmas morning, as well as providing 2,000 Christmas meal boxes. But for all that the Salvation Army pours out to the ...


Halfway through 1st year of performance-based learning, school officials claim progress

By Katie Langford
12/19/2015

In a sixth-grade classroom at Grand Mesa Middle School, teacher Erin Dryanski can hardly contain her excitement about the numbers, written in colored marker, on the board. All four of her classes are at least 10 percent more proficient in English and language arts, and one has grown 35 percent since the beginning of the year. “We’re really realistic about where they are,” Dryanski said. “This data is posted all over the place. They know they’re not ...


77 kids enjoy $100 shopping sprees

By Katie Langford
12/19/2015

More than 70 children received some extra holiday cheer Saturday with a shopping spree from the Fraternal Order of the Eagles. The 77 School District 51 students were given a $100 shopping spree at Kmart, an annual Eagles tradition that began 27 years ago. Eagles co-chairwoman Helen Alley said the event started with former Eagles President Maxine Kovacic, five students and $125. “Maxine had this vision of helping children and giving them a little boost, especially the middle ...


R-5 students measure performance through projects

By Katie Langford
12/19/2015

At R-5 High School, students are going a step beyond the performance-based learning system that District 51 is rolling out in seven demonstration schools this year. R-5 students are tackling project-based learning, a class that incorporates all subject areas into answering a question or solving a problem. “It’s an inquiry process of real-life situations,” R-5 Principal Don Trujillo said. “Last spring, we did a project on the Dominguez Dam — should or should ...


Pop star visits GJ teen after social media campaign

By Katie Langford
12/19/2015

Delaney Clements is well-known for her bright smile, upbeat attitude and tireless fight against cancer. Now one more person knows that, too — Taylor Swift. Less than two weeks after the launch of a viral campaign to help #DelaneyMeetTaylor that involved tens of thousands of people posting and tweeting about the 13-year-old’s ultimate wish, Delaney’s dream came true. The pop star visited Delaney at her Grand Junction home Saturday afternoon, and Delaney has the ear-to-ear ...


Pedestrian killed crossing Grand Ave.

By Katie Langford
12/17/2015

A woman was struck and killed by a truck while crossing Grand Avenue at Second Street downtown Wednesday afternoon. Shortly before 3 p.m., the Grand Junction Police Department responded to a vehicle versus pedestrian crash, police spokeswoman Heidi Davidson said. “When we arrived it was confirmed it was a fatality with a female victim,” Davidson said. She said the woman was traveling southbound across Grand Avenue, and that the truck was turning westbound onto Grand from ...


Low participation yields incomplete picture of exam

By Katie Langford
12/12/2015

New standardized test results for District 51 schools can’t be compared to previous years, district administrators said this week, because 2015 was the first year students took the new tests, and the numbers are just a baseline and a starting point, they emphasized. The tests — known as Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers, or PARCC, and Colorado Measures of Academic Success, or CMAS — were administered last spring. Results were made public ...


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