Secondary News and Updates (08/05/22)

Secondary-School News

Welcome Back to School from Mrs. Ridder, Middle School Director

Dear Middle School STEM families,

It is with great excitement that I write this letter welcoming you all to the 2022/23 school year! I am honored to continue to lead our extraordinary middle school students, our dedicated staff, and our supportive school community. I feel very fortunate to be starting my eleventh year at STEM School Highlands Ranch, and I am humbled that you have chosen to entrust your most valued assets in our care.

I have been dedicated to the field of education for more than twenty-five years. I have worked with students ranging in age from Kindergarten through 12th grade in various roles. I have been a drama teacher, a school musical choreographer, an English Language Arts teacher, a Department Chair, an Instructional Coach, and a Professional Development Coordinator. It is truly exhilarating to share my skills as an educational leader and partner in education with you to ensure the success of our students.

Personally, my husband and I have lived in Colorado for 20 years. I have three daughters, one who graduated from UC Santa Barbara, one who just graduated from Cal Poly in San Luis Obispo, and my baby, who will be starting Cal Poly in a few weeks. I have been skiing since the age of 3 and try to get to the mountains as much as I can. I love to play pickleball, read, hike, and celebrate with friends and family.

I view education as a life-long process, and I cannot think of a time that I have not been enrolled in some type of class, workshop, professional development or certification. In fact, each day I walk into your student’s classroom, I learn from our staff and our students. I expect that I will continue to learn at STEM for many years to come.

Most importantly, students are and will always be at the center of all school-related decisions. I am excited to continue in my role as director, to hone my skills, continue to listen and learn, and continue to provide a world-class education to our students. It is an honor to work alongside LynAnn Kovalesky, our Executive Director, and the rest of our incredible team.

Because the relationships between families and the school are paramount to the success of our students, I encourage you to become involved in any possible way. I am excited to kick this year off and see you all at our Back to School Night. I am truly looking forward to our best year yet!

Warm Regards,

Maura Ridder, Middle School Director

Welcome Back to School from Mr. Alsup, High School Director

Dear Spartan Students and Parents,

Welcome back! Our staff is ready and eager to start the school year. We hope that you and your student(s) are preparing for the first day of school on Tuesday, Aug. 9. We will also be hosting our annual Spartan Launch Monday, Aug. 8. This is a wonderful opportunity for our ninth graders to come in and meet their teachers without the crowds.

I am very excited about this upcoming school year. This week working with our teachers, there is a buzz of excitement in the air. The renovation has made amazing progress over the summer and the building feels new. We officially started our CHSAA athletics programs with golf this Monday and are excited to start the soccer, cross country and volleyball seasons on Monday.

If your student is interested in playing any of those sports and you haven’t signed up yet, it’s not too late! Please click here to go to our athletics webpage for more information on registering! If these sports don’t meet your needs, the fall eSports season is just around the corner. I will send additional information as that season approaches.

Your student’s success is my top priority, and I believe that parents/guardians play a key role. You are invited to volunteer and/or take a family interest in the variety of opportunities we have for families and support your student. Invite your student to talk about their day and celebrate their successes. Help your student track his or her learning and discuss ways in which he or she can be engaged in their learning process.

If there is something that you would like to do that isn’t listed there, please let me know. Our goal at STEM is to provide personalized service and instruction. To this end, please feel free to share with your student’s teachers, counselors, and administration any information to help us better serve your student and your family. Please remind your student to have a safe and healthy day, to stay away from negative influences, make good decisions, and come to class every day on time and prepared to learn.

We will see you soon!


Ryan Alsup, High School & Athletics Director

Upcoming Events

STEM All-Events Calendar

Please take a moment to check the STEM All-Events Calendar on our website.

There are lots of events already scheduled so please take a moment to take a look at the calendar to familiarize yourself with some of the events at the start of school. This calendar will continue to be updated throughout the summer as we get closer to the start of school.

Secondary Spartan Launch Set for Monday, Aug. 8

Spartan Launch for Grades 1-12

Monday, Aug. 8, from 9-11 a.m. or 12-2 p.m.

New students to STEM who will be entering secondary school (grades 6-12) are invited to participate in our Secondary Spartan Launch! (this includes first-time students at STEM and first-time students entering Secondary who were in STEM Elementary last year)

Come meet new friends, learn about STEM School’s culture and student expectations, team building, and tour the school. Participation in Spartan Launch will help prepare all new students for their first school day on Tuesday, Aug. 9. This event is for students only. Please enter through the Middle School Doors. Click the button below to sign-up for one of the two sessions being offered.

Middle School Cafeteria/Classroom Sneak Peak Event

Monday, Aug. 8, from 2-3 p.m. – West Side of Campus

Families and students are invited to come to get a sneak peek at the new Middle School Cafeteria and the new Middle School Classrooms. Entry is from the West side of the building. Please park in the Elementary School Parking lot and you’ll be invited to enter through the Middle School Cafeteria doors.

Secondary Driveline Placard Pick-Up

Monday, Aug. 8, from 8:30 a.m.-2:30 p.m. – Secondary School Front Office

Every car that enters our Secondary (East) Driveline in the afternoon for pick-up needs to use a placard. Placards will be pre-printed at the start of the school year and will be made available for pick-up on the dates above. If you cannot make the date, don’t worry. You’ll have opportunities to pick up placards during the first week of school. If you do not have a placard by the first day of school’s pick-up, please enter the driveline starting at 3:15 p.m.

Placards must be visible in the front window to assist our driveline staffers with identifying the student that needs to get into that car.

How do I get a Secondary Regular Placard?

For families with only a Secondary student at STEM, please complete the Secondary Driveline Placard Sign-Up form to request your timeslot. Placards will be ready for pick up on either of the dates listed above.

If you are a family that has students in both Elementary and Secondary, you will pick up all your students via the Elementary (West) Driveline. Please see the Elementary News/Updates Section of the website on placard information.

School Picture Day

Tuesday, Aug. 9 & Wednesday, Aug. 10, during school hours in the Elementary School Gym

Mark your calendars! School Picture Day is the first and second day of school. We want to capture our students looking their best as they come back to school. Families can pre-order photos using the link via the button below. Student photos will be used to create their student IDs.

Middle School and High School students will come down for pictures during their Study Hall. Those students who do not have a Study Hall can come down during their lunch hour or during an off period.

  • Students with the last name starting A – L will be photographed on Tuesday.
  • Students with the last name starting M – Z will be photographed on Wednesday.

Any students who are not photographed can take part in photo retakes on October 7.

NEW FOR THIS YEAR: Students must wear their student ID badges throughout the school day. We are instituting the wearing and use of student ID badges as an additional safety measure. Students will receive an ID badge and a break-away lanyard. Student ID’s are considered a vital part of the dress code and are to be on the student at all times. Once lanyards are issued to students, the lanyard will be required to be visible on the student. It may be worn around the neck or on the belt, with the ID card attached and visible from the front view. The first replacement badge is going to be free. Each additional replacement badge will be $5 each and will be charged to the student’s account. Replacement badges can be requested through the Secondary Front Office.

We understand that this is going to be a learning process for all of our students so we will be rolling this out slowly. We appreciate our families in supporting this important safety measure.

This is a preordering site and will shut down following the last picture day we have scheduled (Make-Up days in October and in the Spring). Following that families will have an opportunity to view and order their photos online and have them directly shipped to their home. Additional information will be shared in the future.

Middle and High School Club Rush Event

Friday, Aug. 12, from 11:15 a.m.-1:15 p.m. – Middle School Cafeteria and High School Commons

This event is for Middle and High School students only. Students will have the opportunity to learn and sign-up for clubs and activities during their lunch hour. This will take place in the MS cafeteria and the HS Commons.

News and Updates

WayToGo Carpool Information

WayToGo Logo

Join STEM School Highlands Ranch’s Schoolpool program to connect with other families to drive, walk or bike to school together. 

Looking for help getting your student to and from school to after-school activities, or want to find a buddy to commute to school with? STEM School Highlands Ranch is pleased to once again partner with Schoolpool, a free program to make it easier to get to school.

How do I get a Secondary Carpool Placard?

Carpools enjoy special Driveline perks! There is a carpool “express” lane in each Driveline Loop. Carpools (meaning three or more students or three or more families riding together) will need to obtain a carpool sticker to use the carpool lane.

To receive a Carpool Placard, please complete the form via the button below. You must list the names and contact information for the other riders in your carpool. Carpool placards will be available for pick-up during the times listed above.

Secondary Lunch Schedules

Middle School students have grade-level specific lunch times. All 6th graders go to A Lunch, all 8th Graders go to B Lunch, and all 7th Graders go to C Lunch.
  • A – 11:15-11:45 a.m.
  • B – 12-12:30 p.m.
  • C – 12:45-1:15 p.m.
High School students have lunch according to the table below.
Blue Days: High School
A Lunch B Lunch C Lunch
Sweeney Cooper Smith, J.
Schnacke Smith, C. Gomez
Rubin White Chacon
Walbek Study Hall Doe
Jones Shall
Gold Days: High School
A Lunch B Lunch C Lunch
Vitalle Larsen Smith, J.
Rubin Bates Brown
new Engineering Smith, C Cortez-Morales
Sweeney White Tomic
new Psychology Study Hall Schwartz

Eighth Grade Boston Trip Registration Final Reminder

This is the final reminder for students and families who are interested in signing up for the annual Eighth Grade Trip to Boston That will take place in October. The deadline to submit your registration and make your payment is Thursday, Aug. 11. Please email with any questions.

This trip is a once-in-a-lifetime adventure for students to explore Boston, one of our country’s most iconic cities. They will experience incomparable learning moments in the field of STEM. Some of what the experience will include are:

  • Exploring Boston’s most notable attractions, including Quincy Market and Fenway Park
  • Participating in workshops such as New England Aquarium Squid Anatomy Workshop and the Stage One Robotics and Coding Helicopter Workshop.
  • Visiting incredible museums such as the Museum of Science, the JFK Library and the M.I.T. Museum and Lab Tour.

Secondary Yearbook Information

This school year will live forever in your yearbook. Buy a yearbook. It’s easy.

Yearbooks may be purchased at

Enter STEM School Highlands Ranch and click on Buy a
Yearbook. Follow the directions online. Enter your name and credit card, debit card or PayPal information, and click

Cost: $45 until October 31, 2022, $55 thereafter

If you want to personalize the book, namestamping starts at $6 extra and must be purchased before January 29, 2022.


Contact Michelle Vitale the STEM Secondary Yearbook Advisor at

After purchase, you will be emailed a confirmation receipt. You may also verify your order at by entering your email in the “Find an Order” field.

Construction Update for Secondary Students

Secondary Class Schedule Update

Thank you so much for your patience over the last few days. The Counseling Team met again this morning and wanted to provide you with an update on Secondary Schedules.

We want to reassure families that there will always be issues and discrepancies when Secondary Schedules are released at the start of the school year. There are several reasons for this:

  • Data in IC is constantly changing (enrolling and unenrolling students)
  • New staff onboarding (swapping classes based on experience and expertise)
  • Enrollment changes (adding and collapsing classes based on demand and enrollment)
  • Students taking off-campus courses
  • No Course Selection Sheet submitted for students

We want our students to have the best start to the school year as possible and that is why our team is going to ask for very specific things from our students and families.

Free Chromebooks for Free-Reduced Lunch Students

We are happy to share that we will be offering students who are part of the Free and Reduced Lunch program the opportunity to get a Free Chromebook if the following parameters are met:

  • Chromebook is signed out by a parent
  • The student must remain enrolled at STEM for three years. (if the student leaves STEM during those three years, they will need to return the laptop)

Laptops can be kept over the summer. For more information, please email to confirm your Free and Reduced Lunch Program status.

Setting Up your Parent Canvas Account

All parents should set up their Parent Canvas account in order to see their student’s coursework, grades and more. Watch the video below that shows you how to link your account with your student’s account, in particular how to access the Paring Code that is needed.

Enrichment Update

Registration for Fall Enrichment is open for the following Secondary programs:

  • Middle School Fencing
  • Middle and High School Girls Persist

More registrations coming soon!

We are looking for interested coaches/parent volunteers to help facilitate the following Secondary clubs at STEM this fall:

  • Middle School Best Robotics
  • Middle School Cross Country
  • Middle and High School Dungeons and Dragons
  • High School Ultimate Frisbee

If you want more information on coaching/volunteer opportunities with our school-based clubs, contact Melanie FitzRoy at Click the button below to start registering for Clubs.

Spartan Before and After School Care Program through Enrichment

The Spartan Before School Care Program is for Secondary students who are dropped off between 7-7:30 a.m. Students will not be permitted to wait outside of the school building between that time and must be part of the Spartan Before School Care Program. The cost for the Before School Care Program is $2 per day.

The Spartan After School Care Program is an affordable, safe place at STEM for secondary students when their parents cannot pick them up after school or after their club. The cost for the Spartan After School Care Program is $8 per day and last pick-up is at 6 p.m. (late fee for students picked up after 6 p.m. is $1/minute)

Both programs occur in the Middle School Building on the West side of the school.

Families register through our SmartCare Childcare Program. If you do not have an account or are not sure you have an account, please email Hiroko Ichijo ( with the subject “SmartCare.” If you do have an account, please use the button below to log in.

After 3:15 pm, all students that remain at school must either be registered in a club or activity, or they will have to go to the Spartan After School Care Program.

News from DCSD about Funding Challenges

Do you know how STEM gets funded? Not many people know. As a free, public charter school in the Douglas County School District, we receive funding through Per Pupil Revenue (PPR). That means for each student we get a predetermined (by the State) amount of money. That money is then used to cover our operating costs, which include facilities, teacher/staff salaries and more. DCSD is one of the lowest-funded school districts in the state.

Any funding for capital improvements like the CHSAA Gym/Building Remodel Project is funded through Bond money that STEM receives from investors. Teacher/staff salaries cannot be paid using that money.

In order for STEM, and the other schools within DCSD, to provide competitive teacher/staff salaries, DCSD must find other ways to find funding. One avenue is through a Mill Levy Override (MLO) or a Bond. DCSD has established a committee to explore these funding options and we wanted to provide our community with information in order to stay informed and to help spread the word.

High School Fall Athletics Registration is Now Open

Hello Spartans!

I hope this newsletter finds you well and you are all enjoying the summer. While the school year is still a few weeks away, this is an exciting time to be a Spartan. As you know, we are about to begin our first CHSAA competition. We will have boys’ soccer, golf, and cross country in the fall. For the girls, we will have volleyball and cross country as well. If you are interested in playing, it is important that you register now as the seasons are ready to begin. Golf is the first sport to start, and the first official practice will be on Monday, Aug. 1. The rest of the teams will begin on Monday, Aug. 8. To participate in practice, you must officially register and submit an updated physical. Below are links to the registration platform and the physical form. You can also find these on our school website under the School Experience tab.

Please note that practices begin prior to the first day of school. For golf, it is over a week before the school year starts. While we may accept late registrations, each CHSAA sport has a minimum number of practices a student must participate in prior to the first competition. That means that people who register late may not be able to play in the first couple of games. Also, we cannot allow a student to participate without an updated physical. Even if you submitted an up-to-date physical in the spring, please resend it to us to avoid confusion so you or your student don’t miss a practice. Please send all physicals to Nicole Rost at


Our athletic and activity programs are sustained through student fees. The registration fees you pay for athletics cover the cost of coaches, officials, equipment, uniforms, and field/facility rental. The athletic fee is $350 (plus registration fees) and must be paid during registration on the SportsEngine site. You cannot complete the registration process without paying and cannot practice or play without registering.

The fee for eSports registration is $150. This covers our administrative costs, which include our team fees to participate on the eSports platform. We would like to create a school-wide booster program to provide fundraising opportunities to help cover some of our costs. Please stay tuned for more information on that.

School Lunches will NOT be Free Next Year

Over the last two years, the USDA has provided school waivers that provide meals at no cost to the students. Those waivers will expire after the 2021-22 School year ends. This means that a return to paid meals will begin August 8, 2022 for students that do not qualify for Free or Reduces Meal Benefits. DCSD is asking that ALL families please complete the Free or Reduced Lunch Application. While you’re completing the application, please make sure to check the box that allows for the information to be shared with your student’s school. Sharing this information with STEM allows for your student to be eligible for more benefits throughout the school year.

If a family does not qualify for FRL, the meals will cost the following:

$3.25 – Elementary

$3.75 – Middle School

All meal prices include an entree, fruit, veggies and milk. Ala carte options are available at all schools and prices vary by option. Students pay for school lunches through their MySchoolBucks account.

Student Fees Update

Student fees have been uploaded to MySchoolBucks. Families should see all fees in their account when they log in. If you have any questions about your account, please email

STEM B.A.S.E. is Hiring

STEM BASE is URGENTLY hiring! We are looking for 1 Program Assitant Manager, and 2 Senior Program Leaders to work in a busy and fun program. If you or someone you know is looking to develop management skills and gain experience in a growing program with a fun, experienced, and dedicated staff, this is the right move for you. The Assistant Manager position is a “Select Charter Postion” with offers an additional 10% monthly pay stipend, 30 hours per week and full time hours on school breaks. Sr Program Leader hours are M-F 1:30-5:30/6. Part-time and full-time hours are available during school breaks. Happy to coordinate BASE managers who have staff looking for more hours. Feel free to call or email me for more details or questions. /(720) 688-2928.

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