2017-2018 School Year Brings Anticipated Changes


Andrew Slama, one of the new science teachers at Manitou, and his dog Rose go for a hike. Slama was drawn to Manitou partially because of the weather and the mountains. He once competed in an ultra-marathon, which is 50 miles long.

Kaitlyn Cashdollar, Editor-in-Chief

The 2017-2018 school year has been much anticipated due to the many changes at Manitou Springs High School. In previous years, MSHS has used the block schedule, where students take four classes one semester, and then another four classes the next semester. This year, the school is switching to the traditional schedule of eight classes that last the entire duration of the academic calendar.

The new schedule came as a shock to many students, especially the incoming senior class. There were many seniors who had to completely rearrange their four-year-plan in order to get the credits they need to graduate. Some, such as Alena Akse (12), even had to drop some classes. “Since the change is happening so late in my personal high school career, it definitely comes with a lot of challenges. I was planning on doubling up on math my senior year to get to Calculus, but now that isn’t possible. I also won’t be able to do Jazz Band this year, which is especially heartbreaking to me,” Akse said. Akse had taken Jazz Band since her freshmen year.

But even with the challenges the new schedule brings, there are many advantages as well. Akse is also an AP student, and she will be taking both AP Literature and Composition and AP Biology this year. This is the first time that AP classes have been offered at MSHS. In the past, students have had to study for the AP tests on their own if they chose to take them. With the new schedule, however, more students have access to the test and classes for it. “It’s always going to be better to take the AP aligned courses if you plan on taking the tests, so it’s good that Manitou now provides that opportunity,” Akse says. “It’s definitely a step in the right direction for Manitou to begin to offer AP and college level courses, and that will be an awesome advantage for all the students including and after the incoming freshmen.”

Gunnar Marquardt (11) is also an AP student who benefits from the new schedule. Marquardt is taking AP Calculus II, AP Language and Composition, and AP U.S. History. The schedule especially benefits the younger students because of the new weighted GPA. “[The weighted GPA] allows us to increase our competitiveness with kids from other schools when looking at colleges,” said Marquardt.

Juniors who are taking the SAT, such as Marquardt, will also be supported by the new schedule. “The schedule with year long classes will especially help me on the SAT because I can continue to work on my skills and knowledge needed for the test all the way up to the test day. This way I have more time to study for it and have a better chance of getting a higher score,” said Marquardt.

The schedule isn’t the only new thing about this school year, however. MSHS has gone through serious staff changes recently. In the past two years alone, the entire english department and nearly all of the science department has been replaced. This year, Andrew Slama, Michele Mitnitsky and Stryker Lane will be joining the MSHS staff.

This is Slama’s first year teaching high school, he has previously taught Native American students in his hometown of Rapid City, South Dakota. Slama is no stranger to Manitou Springs. “I have been traveling to Manitou all throughout my life and have been drawn to it for as long as I can remember. I love the seasons, the mountains and the dramatic weather. Fall is my favorite,” Slama said. He will be teaching Biology, Physical Science, and Anatomy and Physiology. “I’m passionate about [these] subjects because they are endlessly fascinating to me. There are things to memorize but it’s important to see the larger picture and how beautiful it is, which is what inspires me,” Slama said.

Mitnitsky has been teaching for a total of 19 years. She recently moved to Manitou due to her husband being relocated for his job. She has taught it a variety of urban and rural schools, both big and small. She will be teaching Honors Physical Science and all levels of Chemistry. “I love teaching chemistry because it can be so much fun mixing ‘chemicals’ together and having something exciting happen right in front of you. It usually gets kids excited and thinking. Also, having students understand that chemistry is happening all around us everyday,” Mitnitsky said.

Although this is his first year of teaching, Lane spent the last year in a student teaching role at Greeley West High School. “Manitou Springs High is about 1/3 the size of Greeley West, and the physical geography is much different,” Lane said. He will be teaching US History and World Geography. “I have always been a huge fan of history and geography. I think it is very fascinating how our past, our spatial orientation, and our physical environment impact the way we act and the decisions we make every single day,” Lane said. “I am very excited to embark on my new career and I am excited to be part of a very positive learning community. I was actually a Mustang from kindergarten through 10th grade in Nucla, Colorado. Hopefully, I can remember how to be a proud Mustang.”

Since the school is undergoing numerous changes, there are many ways this year acts as a trial for a newly developed system. How that trial goes will be an exciting thing to watch unfold throughout the year.