Spark Online Academy

Family Newsletter - Week of September 6, 2021

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Message from Mrs. Johnson

Greetings, Spark Online Community!

I hope you all had an enjoyable Labor Day weekend and could get outside and enjoy the beautiful Colorado weather. Besides all of the pollen in the air (my fellow allergy sufferers will understand), the cool nights and warm days of September make it a special time of the year!

We are excited to be in our 4th week of school. Spark Online is growing to meet the increased enrollment applications we've seen in the past month. We're pleased to introduce the following new additions to the Spark staff:

  • Ms. Dani Soto, 5th-grade teacher
  • Ms. Deborah Ellis, 3rd-grade teacher
  • Ms. Kristina Graham, Mental Health Professional
  • Ms. Jan Hotham, Speech-Language Pathologist
  • Ms. Stephanie Beck, K-1 Teacher Assistant
  • Ms. Stephanie Ford, Staff Assistant

We look forward to adding more staff members in the weeks to come.

In addition to adding more staff, we have also restocked our hands-on learning supply kits for students and contacted families who did not receive kits. If you have not received your student's supply kit, please give us a call at 719-328-4300 and schedule a time to pick up your student's kit.

In this newsletter, you’ll find:

  • Upcoming important dates
  • Grading and Reporting
  • Free and Reduced Lunch application
  • Information on reporting an absence
  • Parent engagement opportunities

As you have likely seen in the district communication, D11 now requires masks for all students and staff beginning Tuesday, September 7, in response to the El Paso County Public Health Department data. Therefore, while in our space at Trailblazer Elementary, our staff members and visitors will be required to wear masks. You can find further details at

As always, please reach out with any questions or information needs. It’s an honor and privilege to partner with all of you in the success and development of our learners.

Committed to your student's success,

Julie Johnson

Principal, Spark Online Academy

719-328-4302 Office

719-322-6270 Cell

Important Dates Ahead


  • 6 - Labor Day - No School
  • 20 - Staff Professional Learning Day - No Students

  • 23 - Open House (In person if possible, virtual if needed)

Grading and reporting progress at Spark Online Academy

Spark Online Academy strives to communicate learning progress and achievement that accurately reflects what a student knows and can do. To accomplish this, Spark will be utilizing a standards-based grading and reporting system that you may notice some differences when compared to traditional systems.

In traditional grading and reporting, practices such as averaging scores over a period of time include measurements of skill proficiency when a student is just learning a brand new skill into a final determination of mastery. This, in effect, penalizes a student for not having proficiency at the introduction of the learning. This would be much like telling a young child that they are only partially proficient at tying their shoes even though they tied them perfectly because when they started learning, they didn't know how to tie their shoes.

Another component of traditional grading and reporting that may lead to an incomplete representation of what a student knows and is able to do is assigning a letter grade to broad subject areas. When a student is given a letter to represent a broad subject area such as reading or math, it gives no information about specific skills a student is progressing in, needs support with, or has demonstrated mastery. In our shoe tying example, a student might earn a B in "Shoes" because they know how to select the right size shoes, know how to keep them clean and keep them in an organized space at home, but don't know how to tie them yet. That B doesn't tell us anything about what the child knows and is able to do.

Lastly, a traditional system doesn't always separate behaviors or work habits from a defined skill. Often this looks like attributing completion of tasks equivalent to academic skill mastery. Task completion is an important skill. However, it does not necessarily reflect the understanding of the academic skill. For instance, using our shoe tying example, a child may scream and yell and have a temper tantrum but still tie their shoes perfectly. Therefore, we would say they are proficient at tying their shoes and score them not proficient on responsible and respectful behavior. However, if we scored them as not proficient in tying their shoes because of poor behavior, that is inaccurate information and could lead to an attempt to continue teaching how to tie shoes when the lessons should be on developing respectful and responsible behavior.

More detailed, skill-centered reporting takes the mystery out of the grading process. Hence, parents/guardians and students have a clear picture of a student's learning journey. It also makes it easier to provide just the right instruction, resources, and experiences for students and not continue providing instruction on a skill in which a student has already demonstrated mastery.

Spark Online Academy's standards-based grading and reporting allow us to provide more specific information on learning progress and empower our students to know and speak to their areas of strength and growth. With more specific, skill-centered information, students are better prepared to set attainable goals and achieve them with the support of their teachers and families. Most importantly, we will be helping to develop important goal setting and planning skills for success throughout life.

Below you will see the Colorado Academic Standards. Our teachers will organize grading and reporting by these standards categories, which your students will use to share their learning growth and achievement at our quarterly student-led conferences.

Read, Write, Communicate

  • Oral Expression and Listening

  • Reading for All Purposes

  • Writing and Composition

  • Research Inquiry and Design


  • Number and Quantity

  • Algebra and Functions

  • Data, Statistics, and Probability

  • Geometry


  • Physical Science

  • Life Science

  • Earth and Space Science

Social Studies

  • History

  • Geography

  • Economics

  • Civics

Visual Arts

  • Observe and Learn to Comprehend

  • Envision and Critique to Reflect

  • Invent and Discover to Create

  • Relate and Connect to Transfer


  • Expression of Music

  • Creation of Music

  • Theory of Music

  • Aesthetic Valuation of Music

Physical Education

  • Movement competence and understanding

  • Physical and Personal Wellness

  • Social-Emotional Wellness

  • Prevention and Risk Management

Habits of Work

Responsible Learner

  • Attends class regularly

  • Prepares for class

  • Meets deadlines

  • Asks for and accepts help when things are challenging

  • Communicates with teachers when absent

  • Practices academic honesty

Engaged Learner

  • Completes assignments to the best of ability

  • Actively participates in learning activities/class discussions.

  • Is a respectful member of the classroom

  • Collaborates with peers and teachers to advance learning

  • Uses feedback to improve learning

A grading and reporting Q & A session will take place this Friday, September 10 from 11:45 - 12:15. You may join at the link below at that time.

LINK TO Q & A WebEx meeting September 10, 11:45-12:15

Free and Reduced Meal Application

Did you know that District 11 is providing meals to all students for this school year regardless of Free or Reduced Price meal status for the 2021-2022 school year?

However, you should still complete an application to obtain FRL status.

Benefits to filling out the FRL application may include:

  • Reduced fees for athletics and other non-school programs
  • Increased funding for your schools
  • Possible Pandemic EBT food benefits

You will need to qualify for Free or Reduced Price meals to qualify for any possible P-EBT benefits for this school year.

Please complete a new Application for Free and Reduced Priced Meals each school year as soon as possible to receive a determination.


If you are interested in accessing meals for your Spark Online student, please contact our front office at 719-328-4300.

Reporting absences at Spark Online

To report an absence:

Complete an “absence of live learning session(s)” notification form (LINKED HERE) within 24 hours of the absence. You can also find the form at

Completion of this form is the way to let your child’s teacher be aware that your student will miss scheduled live learning sessions.

*Please note - Any instruction and assignments missed during a live learning session are available with the expectation that they will be accessed and completed at an alternative time convenient to the family and student.

Notice made by a parent of missed live instruction does not dismiss the student from accessing the recorded learning and completing any associated assignments within one week of the missed lesson(s).

In the absence of a bell ringing and physical presence in a school building to mark the beginning and end of classes, Spark Online will use various evidence of student presence to mark attendance.

The four major pieces of evidence of attendance that will be utilized are:

  • Logged onto our 8:00-8:30 Creative and Active Beginnings (CAB Time) on Monday, Tuesday, Thursday, and Friday on the scheduled days of instruction dor D11.

  • Hours logged into WebEx meetings for scheduled instruction throughout the day.

  • Hours engaged in learning on your learning platform (SeeSaw or Schoology)

  • Daily work assignment submissions

Parent Engagement Opportunities

An essential part of launching a new school is building strong parent and community connections and opportunities for engaged involvement.

If you have an interest in learning more about serving on our School Accountability Committee (SAC) or in establishing a PTA for Spark Online, please complete the survey linked below before September 15.


After the survey closes, we will contact those interested regarding the next steps in creating our SAC and PTA.

About Spark Online Academy

Spark Online Academy empowers learners through connected, rigorous, and relevant learning experiences that combine caring, skilled educators with the power of technology to connect with the local and global community.