Secondary News and Updates (08/11/23)

Secondary-School News

Directors' Updates

An Update from Mrs. Ridder, Middle School Director

Dear Middle School Families,

What a wonderful week of welcoming our students back to school! It has been heartwarming seeing all of their sweet, happy faces. I am looking forward to a productive partnership with you to ensure our children can reach their highest potential this year. For our students to succeed in school, they need support from the family and the school. A strong partnership with you will significantly impact your child’s success. We are all invested in your child’s education and goals.

I ask that we work together to support your child’s growth by ensuring that he/she:

  1. Attends school daily and arrives on time.
  2. Completes all assignments.
  3. Shares school stories, friends, encounters, and content with you.
  4. Informs you if he/she is struggling in any area or subject.
  5. Is aware that you believe he/she will succeed at STEM.

If you want to get involved in your child’s education, please consider volunteering at STEM; our students will thrive from your contribution to our school. The middle school is always looking for volunteers to help us with the following activities:

  1. Lunch
  2. Driveline
  3. School-wide events
  4. Enrichment activities
  5. Student recognition events

Today, we held our first Middle School Assembly. During that time, I reviewed expectations surrounding arrival, dismissal, dress code, cell phones, tardies, etc. You can click here for a copy of that presentation. Linked here is our Parent/Student Handbook so that you and your student can review our policies together. A few important reminders: Badges are part of our dress code and must be worn each day. Please help your child to remember to wear his/her school badge (photos will be taken next week and badges distributed). Please review our cell phone policy and our dress code with your child as well. Each policy put in place is there for the safety, success, and well-being of our children.

Our incredible STEM faculty and staff feel honored that you have chosen to entrust your children in our care. If you have any questions, please feel free to contact me at maura.ridder@

In partnership,

Maura Ridder, Middle School Director

An Update from Mr. Alsup, High School Director

Dear STEM students and families,

The start of an academic year is always an exciting time, and this year is no exception. I want to thank the parents, students, and staff for the great opening of school. The first week of school has been very busy. Teachers and students have spent the past few days establishing relationships with each other as well as exploring the new curriculum that every student faces as they move up in grade level and subject to the next. Each brings with it exciting new challenges as students use the prior knowledge gained with the new knowledge learned. This connection is important to both students and staff members as we strive to reach our full potential as life-long learners.

As you all know, we started using our new Evolv Express syhttps://stem. I want to thank our students for their patience as we work through the various issues that come along with using a syhttps://stem like this. School security is our top priority, and I believe this is an innovative step in the right direction.

On Wednesday, we had our first Access Period. Access is a new period that we added to our schedule every Wednesday and Thursday for 70 minutes. During this time students will often receive a mini-lesson, will go to assemblies, or will have an opportunity to visit with one of their teachers to make up tests or get additional help if needed. This week we used it for an assembly to review and reinforce school policies.

Looking ahead…

Next week we will host a club rush during access. Club rush was a huge success last year with many students being exposed to clubs that they didn’t know we had. Our clubs are extremely important to the culture of our school, and students who are involved in clubs typically enjoy school more and experience higher levels of academic success.

Back to School Night will be on Wednesday, Aug. 16 from 5-7:30 p.m. This is a wonderful opportunity for you to meet your student’s teachers as you follow an abbreviated bell schedule. The teachers are prepared to give you an overview of the class to give you a better idea of what to expect this year. However, please note this is not a parent/teacher conference. If you need to meet with the teachers to discuss anything specific to your student, we ask that you schedule an appointment with the teacher.

Thanks everyone!


Ryan Alsup, High School 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.

School Picture Day

Tuesday, Aug. 15, and Wednesday, Aug. 16, from 8 a.m.-2:30 p.m. – Elementary School Gym

Secondary Students will get their photos taken during the English/Language Arts courses and have their badges printed on-site. A retake day will be on Friday, Oct. 6.

2023 Senior College Night

High School Club Rush

Wednesday, Aug. 16, from 10:35-11:35 a.m. (during Access) – Middle School Cafeteria

High School students will have the opportunity to get to know all of the different clubs and activities that are available at STEM. Students can also learn how to start their very own club.


  • Freshman/Sophomores from 10:35 to 10:55 a.m.
  • Juniors/Seniors 11:05 to 11:35 a.m.

Middle School Club Rush

Thursday, Aug. 17, from 10:35-11:40 a.m. (during Access) – Middle School Cafeteria

Middle School students will have the opportunity to get to know all of the different clubs and activities that are available at STEM. Students can also learn how to start their very own club.


  • 6th Grade 10:35-10:55 a.m.
  • 7th Grade 11:00-11:20 a.m.
  • 8th Grade 11:20-11:40 a.m.

Secondary Back-to-School Night

Wednesday, Aug. 16, from 5-7:30 p.m. – Middle School Cafeteria and High School Commons

Our Secondary Back to School Nights are your opportunity to build communication and connection between teachers and families. Families will begin in the respective locations listed above. School Directors will kick things off with a 20-minute presentation before dismissing families to follow their student’s class schedule. Each teacher will conduct a 10-minute presentation that provides an introduction about themselves, an overview of the course, procedures and expectations, how parents can help and the best way to contact them.


  • Director’s Welcome: 5-5:20 p.m – MS Cafeteria (MS) or HS Commons (High School)
  • Period 2 – 5:25-5:35 p.m.
  • Period 3 – 5:40-5:50 p.m.
  • Period 4 – 5:55-6:05 p.m.
  • Period 5 – 6:10-6:20 p.m.
  • Period 6 – 6:25-6:35 p.m.
  • Period 7 – 6:40-6:50 p.m.
  • Period 8 – 6:55-7:05 p.m.
  • Period 9 – 7:10-7:20 p.m.

News and Updates

Student Support Services Update

Our new ACCESS periods for secondary students started this week. The focus has been on security and the Evolv syhttps://stem, changes in Standards-Based grading, getting an introduction to our counseling team, and an overview of what to expect in ACCESS. Community building has also been a consistent part of our week, and will continue to be a priority in the weeks ahead. ACCESS periods, which occur on Wednesdays and Thursdays each week, provide a time for students to receive extra support from teachers and specialists, participate in social-emotional learning activities, get classwork completed, and to hold school-wide events such as Pep Rallys and other assemblies. For the remainder of August, ACCESS will focus on the following:

Week of Aug 14:

  • (HS) Senior Assembly (12th gr only), introduction to goal setting, and getting introduced to the many clubs on campus by visiting a Club Rush event.
  • (MS) School safety, introduction to journaling, Standards-Based Learning overview and introduction to Mastery Connect, reviewing the Student Handbook and setting expectations within our school community, and getting introduced to the many clubs on campus by visiting a Club Rush event.

Week of Aug 21:

  • (HS) Standards-Based Learning overview and introduction to Mastery Connect, School safety, introduction to journaling
  • (MS) Introduction to goal setting

Week of Aug 28: Bullying

  • (HS) Bullying
  • (MS) Bullying, Setting ACCESS expectations

NMSQT and SAT Information for 11th and 12th graders

Tuesday, Oct. 10, from 7:50 a.m. to 12 p.m.

On October 10, 2022, STEM juniors will take the PSAT/NMSQT and STEM seniors that signed up will take the SAT. These assessments are not part of state-mandated accountability testing, but an opportunity for students to improve SAT scores or practice for the SAT. The NMSQT is used as a qualifier for the National Merit Scholarship Program. For more information about these assessments, please visit

K-8 Typical School Day

  • 6th, 9th, 10th, 12th will have a Virtual day – students will log into Canvas and/or Zoom to complete attendance and coursework per their teacher’s instructions.
  • 11th and 12th grade students must opt in to take NMSQT
  • 12th graders that signed up for SAT will test (the rest will be virtual)
  • Those testing will be responsible for knowing missed content, missed tests or quizzes and project work but will be excused from afternoon assignments/homework.

PSAT 8/9 Information for 7th and 8th Graders

Tuesday, Oct. 10, from 7:40-11 a.m. 

On Tuesday, Oct. 10, 2023, STEM 7th and 8th-grade students that did not opt-out will take the PSAT 8/9. This assessment is not part of state-mandated accountability testing but an opportunity for parents, students, and teachers to see what skills students need to prepare for High School and college. More information about the PSAT 8/9 can be found here. Following testing, students will resume their daily schedule. Students in grades K-5 will follow their normal schedule.  Students in 6th, 9th, 10th and those 12th graders not testing will follow their typical schedules virtually.

I've picked up my driveline placard. What do I do with it?

Please fold your driveline placard in half and place it on your dashboard as you enter the Secondary School parking lot in the afternoon. Please do not laminate the placard as it creates a glare with the sun and windshield, making it difficult to see.

You will only need the placard in the afternoon for dismissal. If you need a replacement or an additional placard, email support@ with Placard in the subject line. Please include your student’s name, grade and number of placards needed.

Secondary Driveline Placard Pick-Up

All Secondary families must sign-up for one of two timeslots (2:55 p.m. or 3:05 p.m.). Click the button below to sign-up for a timeslot. All families must have a placard to use Driveline and must only come at their designated time. Carpool placards will also be available during this time, but families must complete the Secondary Carpool Sign-Up first, and must meet the requirements of the Carpool program.

Update to Lightning Delay Radius/Reminder of Procedure

As the weather continues to be unpredictable, we wanted to get our Lightning Delay/Dismissal Policy to families as soon as possible so that you can all prepare. While we are not anticipating any storms, we want everyone to be prepared.

Lightening Delay Procedure:

  • STEM School Highlands Ranch will continue to follow Douglas County School practices and protocols, and we encourage families to use the WeatherBug app to monitor lightning strikes. If lightning is within an 8-mile radius of our building at dismissal, we will hold students in their classrooms until the lightning has passed. Students over the age of 18 may leave if they choose.
  • The lightning is considered to have passed if, after 30 minutes, there is no lightning within a 8-mile radius.
  • When a lightning dismissal is called, we will announce it inside the building and send an email and text via School Messenger and PikMyKid.
    • NEW FOR 2023-24 SCHOOL YEAR: We are asking K-12 families to download the PikMyKid Parent App and set up their account to that they can receive Emergency Notifications.
  • We often need to call a lightning dismissal at 2:20/2:30 p.m. for Elementary or 2:55 p.m. for Secondary, so texts and emails are sent as soon as possible. Please check IC to ensure you are signed up and subscribed to receive texts.
  • DCSD has made an important change to Lightning dismissal protocol: HS students under 18 will no longer be able to pick up younger siblings from a building during inclement weather.
  • Elementary parents who normally pick up their students as a walker may still do so via the Walker Door in Elementary, using the PikMyKid app to announce you are there. Parents may not park in the driveline and then get out to pick up their student via the walker door as this creates a safety hazard due to cars blocking our driveway.

Important Safety Guidelines

  • Parents, once you receive the text or email that we are in a lightning delay, please clear the driveline lanes and the campus, and wait for a notification that the delay is lifted.
  • Do NOT stay in your car or leave your car unattended in the driveline. This is a safety hazard, and we need the parking lot clear.
  • It is important to keep the driveline lanes clear in an emergency.
  • Once conditions on campus are considered safe, students will be released and messages will be sent to families.
  • Please note: Staff are not allowed to leave the building to clear the driveline lanes and the parking lot so we are asking all families to please follow these guidelines, without prompting so that we can keep everyone safe.
  • We will update families as we get closer to the severe weather rolling in.

Student IDs for the 2023-24 School Year

Your School Directors (Mrs. Ridder and Mr. Alsup) wanted to share the following information with you in regards to Student IDs, Lanyards and the ID pouches.
  • Replacement IDs if lost/stolen: Students who have lost their ID should complete the Secondary Student ID Replacement Form to order a replacement. IDs are free for the first one and $5 for any duplicates. Duplicates will be printed by the front office and students will be notified when they are ready for pick up.
  • Lanyards and pouches: Lanyards and pouches can be picked up at the Secondary Front Office. Please show your student ID to receive one.

Common App 101 and After Grad Packet

important information below and attached for any senior applying to a 4-year university!!! Please make sure you are reading EVERYTHING!!

Common App 101 – This document walks you through setting up your Common App account, adding recommenders for letters of rec, determining additional supplemental essays you will need to write, and anything else college app related! 🙂 Make sure you are adding my contact information for ANY counselor requests in application portals. This is very important!!! If you are asking Ms. Birchfield for your counselor letter, I will still be the one uploading the letter.

I’ve also attached the After Grad Packet with this email. You MUST send me your completed AG Packet if you are requesting a letter of recommendation. I also suggest sending this packet and your resume to teachers that are writing your teacher letters of recommendation.

Update on Standards-Based Learning

STEM School Highlands Ranch is a standards-based learning school. Standards-based learning (SBL) is a way for students to demonstrate mastery of standards, and a way for teachers to determine which standards students still need help to understand. It is a way for parents to determine what their student knows and might be struggling with.

College and Career Newsletter

College and Career Planning Resources Graphic

Secondary Lunches

For the 2023-24 School Year, below are the lunch times for Middle School Students.

  • Sixth Grade – A Lunch (11:15-11:45 p.m.)
  • Seventh and Eighth Grade – B & C Lunches (12-12:30 p.m. or 12:45-1:15 p.m.)

Seventh and eighth graders will learn on the first day of school from their teacher when their lunch time is. NEW this year! Seventh and eighth graders will have mixed lunches during B & C lunches. This is a change from last year so that we can provide more Elective opportunities for students to chose in their schedule.

Interested in Joining SAC?

If you’re interested in getting involved with our School Accountability Committee and would like to receive meeting notifications, please email sac@ to be included on the Meeting Reminder email list.

Need Help with PikMyKid?

We are asking all families, K-12, to please download the PikMyKid Parent App and set up an account. We will continue to use the PikMyKid App for dismissal for Elementary Driveline, and will be adding PikMyKid to our Emergency Messaging platforms for all of K-12. We will not implement the dismissal component for Secondary at this time, and will release more information in the coming months.

If you have set up your account and do not see your student, please click the button below to complete the PikMyKid Help Form so that we can help you.

Need a Carpool? Sign-Up for Way to Go School Pool

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.

Signing up is simple!

  1. Using a computer (not a smartphone or tablet), create an account and enter your address or intersection here. (Your information will only be shared with same school families. To maintain the highest level of privacy and security, each school’s registration link is unique.)
    Add comments to indicate interest, such as “can provide morning rides in exchange for afternoon rides,” “student is in after-school activities,” or “looking for a walk buddy in the mornings.”
  2. Find and contact interested STEM School Highlands Ranch families in your neighborhood or along your drive to/from school.
  3. The more families that register, the more likely you will find good matches. Even if your family doesn’t need a ride, consider signing up to drive other students. Your participation builds a stronger school community.

Privacy and security: STEM School Highlands Ranch and Schoolpool do not run background checks, confirm valid driver’s licenses, or assess insurance coverage on participants. Potential users are advised to screen participants to their personal satisfaction and check their own insurance coverage for carpooling to ensure that they are covered under these voluntary arrangements. Schoolpool does not provide drivers, vehicles, or insurance.

Lunches will be FREE This School Year

FREE lunches are back for students! Starting in August of 2023, students will once again receive free lunches. Students must chose an entree, fruit/vegetable a milk for the free lunch. Snacks are not free.

While lunches will be free, it is important for families who need additional financial support to still complete the Free/Reduces Lunch application. Those who qualify for FRL status will only receive the additional benefits (free/reduced school fees, free/reduced trips, priority for scholarships in non-FRL field trips or Enrichment programs, and/or graduation fee reductions, etc.) of the program if they complete the application.

In order to assure that the District and STEM receive accurate data, DCSD and STEM are requesting that ALL families complete the FRL application that opens on July 15, regardless of financial status. A new application must be completed each school year. Families can also still apply for this school year using the link below.

DCSD Free Meals Flyer SY 23-24 UPDATED

Secondary Locker Sign-Up

For those who haven’t completed this step yet, please click the button below to sign-up for a secondary locker. The yearly fee for a locker is $5 and will be added to the student’s MySchoolBucks account. Lockers are separated by grade level and will be assigned on a first-come, first-serve basis. Students will receive an email with their locker number and combination.

Secondary Student Parking Pass Waitlist

Students with valid driver’s licenses can put their names on the Parking Pass Waitlist via the button below. Parking passes cost $50 for the school year, and the fee will be added to the student’s MySchoolBucks account. The fee must be paid prior to picking up the parking pass. Students who are approved will receive an email with instructions on how to pick up.

Technology Support News

We are changing our web filtering this school year to Securly. We have filtering set as default when on the network. If a student installs a certificate on their machine, they can get filtering according to their grade level. You can get the installation file by clicking the button below. This only filters when on the school network. All students will join the “Students” WiFi network at the school As long as the student has the certificate installed, they will get filtered correctly.

DCSD News and Updates

B.A.S.E at STEM is hiring!

We are looking for 2 Program Leaders to work in a busy and fun after-school program. If you or someone you know likes working with kids, has some experience working with children ages 5-12, and is eager to develop and learn new skills in a growing program with a fun, experienced, and dedicated staff, this is the right move for you. Program Leader hours are M-F, 1:30-5:30/6 p.m. Part-time and full-time hours are available during school breaks. This position is a “Select Charter Position” and offers an additional 10% (to hourly base rate) monthly stipend. If you are interested but need more flexibility, we are hiring Program Leader substitutes. Substitutes can work 2-3 days each week. We are also happy to coordinate with STEM who are looking for more hours. Feel free to call or email me for more details or questions at, or (720) 688-2928.

DCSD Board Unanimously Approves MLO/Bond for Ballot

On Tuesday, the DCSD Board of Education voted unanimously to place a $66M Mill Levy Override and $484M Bond on the November 2023 ballot (see the press release). All seven Board directors expressed their strong support and personal dedication to our students and our staff. During public comment the Board heard from students, teachers, neighborhood school principals, charter school principals, business leaders, elected officials and more – and all expressed strong support for additional funding. I hope you will take a few minutes to listen to the public comment – the support for YOU, our teachers and staff, from every part of our community was overwhelming.

  • Click here to watch the public comment portion of the meeting.
  • Click here to watch our presentation to the Board where we outlined staff recommendations for a Mill Levy Override and Bond.

The Board also unanimously adopted a compensation resolution that will automatically trigger if the MLO passes. For school district staff, this means pay increases would happen automatically should the MLO pass (with increases being paid retroactively back to July 1). For charter school staff, exact details about pay increases will come from your school’s board and leadership.

To learn more about how additional funding would benefit our schools and our staff, visit I also encourage you to read through our MLO/Bond plan.

Comments are closed.