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Cody schools continue RIDE initiative, Powell schools may join in

Braden Schiller with the Powell Tribune, via the Wyoming News Exchange

POWELL — Cody students these days have been learning in part by engaging with their community. 
This year 10 Cody students spent a portion of their day using Cody Regional Health as an opportunity for hands-on learning. They visited the hospital's different departments and learned about diet, medicine, health care, construction, finance, human resources and marketing. 
This is part of Wyoming's continued effort to reimagine and innovate its delivery of education. The effort is better known as RIDE, which was announced in 2021 by Gov. Mark Gordon as a collaborative effort with the Wyoming Department of Education. 
The goal of RIDE is to “transform instruction and assessment” using competency based learning, flexible pathways, student choice and personalized learning, according to material included in a press release from the Wyoming Department of Education. 
In 2023 the program selected an initial group of nine districts –  including Cody and Meeteetse — from a pool of applicants. 
Now the Wyoming Department of Education is opening the program for a second round of districts, while the initial group of schools continues to innovate. 
Park County School District 1 is one of the districts open to being a part of the second round, which could bring some new innovations to Powell student learning. 
Cody collaborates with community
Cody’s Park County School District 6 joined RIDE because it already aligned with the Classroom 2 Careers Initiative that was being implemented in the district, Superintendent Vernon Orndorff said. 
The idea is to give Cody teachers autonomy to teach the standards that will then be applied in the real world. 
The district expanded its Career Technical Education to kindergarten through 12th grade students and collaborated with business partners including Cody Regional Health, Buffalo Bill Center of the West, Y-TEX and Forward Cody. The district also went to the Rotary and Cody’s other civic organizations to share its vision. 

The Classroom 2 Careers Initiative is also supported by the Cody School Ed Foundation through an endowment. Through these partnerships, students are able to use local businesses and organizations to learn hands-on as an intern or apprentice. 
Cody schools have expanded the walls of their classrooms to include community and business leaders, who share their career pathways and provide projects, Orndorff said. 
Cody schools also have CoLABratorys and other active learning spaces that allow critical thinking and innovation. In these spaces teachers serve more as facilitators, he said. 
“(The students) are in control of what projects they learn, with the alignment of those standards. It’s very impactful and research shows that … students learn more through engagement and application of learning,” Orndorff said. 
Moving forward, he said, there will be more engagement from community and business leaders as well as clear pathways in the high school that will continue to grow. He applauded the community and business leaders involved as well as the families and staff of PCSD6 for their part in the initiative and for doing what’s best for students. 
Powell is open to join second round 
Powell schools sat out RIDE’s initial round, but Superintendent Jay Curtis said the school is open to applying for its second round which closes the application process on Friday. Curtis was hesitant to apply during RIDE’s first round because the program, the way he understood it, had to be applied on a district scale, which is not the case. 
Rather than change standards, RIDE is in addition to existing standards, so the challenge is finding something within the district to supplement with RIDE that won’t disrupt what students are already doing, he said. 
“For this program each district has had options, so for instance one district who did it in the first cohort, specified to second grade … some districts like Meeteetse, decided to do something district wide,” Curtis said. “It doesn't have to be district wide, it can be … a sample size, it can be a specific grade, it can be a specific project that includes multiple grades. It really is whatever we want it to be.” 
If accepted into the program, PCSD1 would not implement RIDE throughout the district, Curtis said.
Instead, the district is looking for something that is already being done in Powell schools that could be enhanced with RIDE. Based on the surveys that went out before RIDE launched, Curtis said that there are skills included in RIDE that are not “reflected in the current standards.” 
He does think that students in Powell learn these skills in K-12 but “there’s always room to enrich those experiences and try to help kids.”
“It's definitely a worthy initiative. We fully support the RIDE initiative from its inception, and I know that there are a number of things that are going on around the state, not just with RIDE, but there's been other projects that have tried to launch with regards to this,” Curtis said. “But it's really going to take the governor's office, the State Board and the Department of Ed and the legislature all looking in the same direction and trying to achieve a common goal. And I think that that is happening, but it's gonna be a slow process.”
This story was published on February 22, 2024.

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