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About

Southwest Open School (SWOS) is a public charter high school located in Cortez, Colorado.

SWOS was created in 1986 by the Southwest Board of Cooperative Services, with an initial enrollment of 20 students. After reorganization in 1998, SWOS became a charter school with Montezuma-Cortez RE-1 School District serving as its authorizing agent (LEA).

Over the last 30 years, the governing board, administration, and staff have focused on developing a caring community where positive relationships are built to ensure student success. SWOS offers a comprehensive educational program that combines academics, character education and expeditionary learning approaches, and other supplemental programs to nurture the success of the whole student.

The school serves 4 school districts (Montezuma Cortez RE-1, Dolores RE-4A, Dolores County RE-2J & and Mancos RE-6) and attracts a diverse student population. The ethnic breakdown is as follows: 22% Native American, 12% Hispanic, 62% White, and 4% two or more races.

SWOS is a school of choice where students are able to earn a fully accredited high school diploma. Since more than 90% of SWOS students are considered “at-risk,” the school carries the designation “Alternative Education Campus.” At present, enrollment is at 134 students, with a student-to-teacher ratio of approximately 15:1.


Our Mission

The mission of Southwest Open School is to create a community of learners who utilize expeditionary, experiential education in developing and nurturing high academic, character, and health standards while honoring diversity and fostering self-directed lifelong learning.

SWOSology

Southwest Open School is a community where a culture of character is valued and cultivated.

Southwest Open School is a community where a culture of character is valued and cultivated. With respect as the binding mortar, students and staff feel physically, emotionally, and intellectually safe. Because SWOS is a community, students have a voice, and students and staff work together to continually promote and improve our culture. Guiding this culture of character is SWOSology, an introduction to the norms (6 P's) and the culture (6 Design Principles) of SWOS; this is the first course taught to all new students and staff.
The 6 P's

  • SWOS students and staff get involved, engage, and are always aware of what’s going on in class
  • SWOS students and staff are active contributors in all activities, knowing what the expectations are, and support the learning community
  • SWOS students and staff are willing to work with others and contribute positively to discussions, team initiatives, and projects

  • SWOS students and staff should be mentally and physically ready for class.
  • SWOS students and staff are aware of and able to use positive coping strategies in class.
  • SWOS students and staff should ask for help and advocate for what they need.

Positive Mental Attitude
  • SWOS students and staff show up with confidence, optimism, a “growth” mindset, and recognize our power to make choices about our futures
  • SWOS students and staff take responsibility for knowing and managing our triggers and coping strategies
  • SWOS students and staff strive to respond rather than react by using social and emotional awareness to respond mindfully to all situations

  • SWOS students and staff are expected to be respectful of all people and property.
  • Understand when and where appropriate language and manners are expected.
  • Try your best to be helpful, empathetic, and even nice.

  • SWOS students and staff understand that all work, projects, and assignments are expected to be finished on time.
  • SWOS students and staff understand that quality work is always done to the best of their ability, revised, and reflected upon.
  • SWOS students and staff understand that productivity is a valuable life skill that needs to be practiced.

  • SWOS students and staff are expected to be on time and understand the consequences for being late.
  • SWOS students and staff understand that leaving class early and extended personal breaks out of the classroom have consequences.
  • SWOS students and staff understand that reliability and attendance are valuable life skills that need to be practiced.
SWOS Design Principles

Discovering potential means opening up to possibility. At SWOS, students participate in unique learning experiences, expeditionary opportunities, and are provided with the requisite support to discover potential. The SWOS community supports all members in realizing their potential by helping them take risks, overcome challenges, and achieve their best.

A responsible learner recognizes that success and failure are both fundamental to learning. It is important for students to learn from their experiences and to persevere when things are challenging. Success comes from accepting personal responsibility. At SWOS, students are encouraged to become increasingly responsible for directing their education. To support responsibility for learning the 6 P’s (prepared, prompt, produce, participate, polite, and PMA) are employed as core guidelines.

Respect is the mortar that binds our school together. Students and staff feel physically, emotionally, and intellectually safe. Respect is also demonstrated through empathy and advocacy within and outside of the SWOS community. Service projects illustrate these values and nurture empathetic leaders who have the attitudes and skills to learn from and be of service.

Every person is a compilation of many stories. These stories are the chisels which sculpt who we are. Allowing others to be themselves without fear of judgment is accepting diversity. Learning about peoples’ differences and incorporating diverse ideas is truly honoring diversity.

A Kenyan proverb states: Sticks in a bundle are unbreakable. People who choose to participate in the SWOS community realize the positive aspects of being both a quality individual and a productive team member.

The natural world is the one place we can all call home. Students at SWOS learn by being respectful participants in the natural world in which they live. This fosters a sense of place as well as responsibility and stewardship for future generations.

Personalized Pathways

Together, we build your future
SWOS has the unique ability to meet each student’s educational needs through the concept of Personalized Pathways. Through their SWOS high school education, students have the opportunity to learn about career fields, explore careers that interest them through job shadowing and/or internships, earn college credit in concurrent enrollment, utilize online options for credit recovery or credit acceleration, and be the driver of their own education. Personalized Pathways give all students greater opportunities, and especially help SWOS students graduate from high school prepared for their next steps. Together, we build your future!

Links

FAQ

What the heck is SWOSology and what does it have to do with restorative practices?
SWOSology is “the study of SWOS; specifically, the culture and character skills including Group Skills, Mood Management, Effective Communication, Problem Solving and Conflict Resolution, to be successful in the SWOS learning community and beyond.” SWOSology is a foundational piece in every student's experience at SWOS and it is a graduation requirement. Students generally take SWOSology early in their time at SWOS, due to the focus on important personal and social skills. These skills and understandings are an essential part of building confidence, forming positive relationships, and being successful at SWOS. Plus, it's a lot of fun! Our community is built on the idea that we can be different, but still work together. SWOSology teaches students how to achieve that goal.SWOS has the unique ability to meet each student’s educational needs through the concept of Personalized Pathways. Through their SWOS high school education, students have the opportunity to learn about career fields, explore careers that interest them through job shadowing and/or internships, earn college credit in concurrent enrollment, utilize online options for credit recovery or credit acceleration, and be the driver of their own education. Personalized Pathways give all students greater opportunities, and especially help SWOS students graduate from high school prepared for their next steps. Together, we build your future!

SWOSology can be challenging at first, and it is natural for there to be a learning curve about how our behavior affects others. SWOS uses restorative practices to help students recognize that it ‘takes two to tango,’ how to take responsibility for their part in conflicts, and how to move forward with the other person.
What are log entries?
Log entries are the consequences of a student’s choice to engage in behavior that is harmful to the SWOS learning community. Students can earn log entries for the following types of behavior: aggressive or defiant behavior that is over the top,behavior that is impolite or disrespectful to other students or staff; repeated loud or crude language; “wandering” in and out of class or campus at inappropriate times; abuse of the SWOS policy on phones or other electronic devices.
What happens after 3, 6, and 9 log entries?
After 3 log entries, a student is given the choice of participating in the Alternative To Suspension (ATS) process, or choosing suspension. After 3 additional log entries (6 total), the student is suspended. After 3 additional log entries (9 total), the student may be expelled.

Please note that log entries are not cumulative- students start with a ‘clean slate’ at the start of the next academic year.
Can I check my student’s discipline history on PowerSchool?
You sure can. Call our office at 970-565-1150 to request a log in.
Does SWOS expel students?
The short answer is yes, but not if we can help it. The only issue that causes expulsion without the opportunity to return to SWOS is fighting on campus, whether it is with or without a weapon. We strongly believe in the SWOS community that everyone deserves to feel safe at school, and fighting creates a lack of safety- both for the students directly involved, and for the rest of our community.

Decisions made by students that can result in expulsion for the rest of the school year include bringing illegal drugs on campus, getting 9 log entries in one year, and any habitually disruptive behavior (which will be reflected in the 9 log entries).
Who do I talk to about my student’s discipline?
The Director at SWOS ultimately abides by district, state and federal laws when making disciplinary decisions on campus. He or she also takes the safety, both mental and physical, of all students into account when making decisions. Input from teachers and support staff including the school counselor and ESS coordinator, as well as from students, is also taken into account. If you arrive for a disciplinary meeting on campus, the Director and school counselor will likely be present; other staff could also be present depending on what the meeting is about.
Why are you asking me to show up to my student’s mediation?
At SWOS, it is important for our community to support one another. We take formal mediation seriously, because it is our chance to take responsibility and work to repair a relationship. It can be hard to take responsibility, and we want students to have supportive people with them to encourage their positive decisions. We also want to keep you ‘in the loop’ and make sure you are involved in our disciplinary process.
What are restorative practices? How are they different from restorative justice?
Restorative practice is a social science that studies how to improve and repair relationships between people and communities. The purpose is to build healthy communities, decrease unhelpful or destructive behavior, repair harm and restore relationships. There are a lot of different kinds of restorative practices. At SWOS we use STOP/VOMP, circles, and formal mediation to help students take responsibility and work to repair relationships. People involved can include the student(s) involved and a family member, staff involved, our Director, and the school counselor.

Restorative justice is an alternate form of legal involvement and can be part of a court-mandated sentence. Its aim is to be less punitive than traditional forms of legal involvement, and to integrate the person who has caused harm back into the community. It usually involves a panel or ‘jury’ of peers, as well as a mediator who has been specially trained. We do not currently practice restorative justice at SWOS.
What is STOP/VOMP?
It’s an acronym:

S stop
T take a step back
O observe
P proceed mindfully
V vent
O own your part
M mindset
P plan

We teach STOMP/VOMP to students during SWOSology, so that they are ready to use it for the rest of their SWOS career and beyond. It is the best way we have found to help students (and staff!) deal with conflicts- from everyday little spats to more serious issues. It is a way of thinking that allows students to look at a situation more objectively, and walks them through the process of making mature, positive decisions.