AP U.S. history among topics at student town hall with superintendent

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LAKEWOOD, Colo. -- Weeks after walking out of schools in order to protest a review of Advanced Placement U.S. history, Jefferson County students walked into a school on Wednesday in order to take part in a first-of-its-kind town hall meeting with JeffCo superintendent Dan McMinimee.

Though students gained national attention for walking out of schools and disrupting classes for more than a week, many of the 75 who showed up to Alameda High School on Wednesday were happy to have a different kind of discussion.

Students came with a wide variety of questions from testing to school funding, but many wanted to know what the superintendent had to say about AP U.S. history.

"What caused for the AP U.S. history curriculum and tests to be up for debate?" said Emilee Strausburg, a JeffCo senior.

McMinimee answered a variety of questions about AP U.S. history, including why he believes the AP framework generated so much concern from the board.

"What was misunderstood in that conversation was that's the outline for a teacher," McMinimee said. "The person that brings that to life is the teacher in the classroom."

The JeffCo board could still call for a review of AP U.S. history after revising the way the district reviews curriculum earlier this month. Students asked McMinimee what that new committee and its 15-20 members will look like.

"Of those 15-20 people, we're going to be aiming for having a balanced perspective," McMinimee said, adding that it will include community members, students, teachers, administrators and experts. "We'll try to make sure that we spread it out across the whole county."

Though students will have a voice on the committee, many doubted they'd have a voice after some board members called them pawns of the teacher's union. It's a topic McMinimee also addressed.

"I have never referred to students as anything but great thinking individuals who are going to have an impact on the future in this district," McMinimee said. "I cannot speak for the board but I am going to try to ask them to try to be more engaged with students."

Students who attended the meeting say they were encouraged by the answers they heard.

"I'm really happy that we were able to have a conversation with him," said Thomas Sizemore, a junior at Lakewood High School and member of Jeffco Stand Up, which organized many of the walk outs and rallies. "I still think some of the answers were a bit vague, but considering it was on the spot I think it was a job well done."

"Kind of nice that students are able to come out and talk about it instead of doing the walkouts," Strausburg said. "It was very good. We could be civil and just talk about it."

Students also asked McMinimee questions about everything from school funding to standardized testing. McMinimee made a point to say that he does believe students spend too much time taking assessments and that the district and the state need to find ways to fix that.