Culture and Operations

List of 10 frequently asked questions.

  • How do you help new students and families transition into the Dawson community?

    Dawson is a very personal and welcoming place.  Students quickly feel at home at Dawson after stepping on campus. We have student and parent ambassadors that reach out to new families and sponsor several events for new families at the beginning of each school year.
  • What is the student/teacher ratio and class size?

    7:1 with an average class size of 15
  • Do you provide transportation?

    Dawson offers its families a convenient, centralized-stop bus program with an affordable flat fee structure.
  • What makes Dawson unique?

    • Our teachers and their desire to know and nurture each student on an individual level. Our teachers are tenured, and we have an 88% faculty retention, so students are surrounded by familiar faces year after year.
    • Small class sizes and a 7:1 student-to-teacher ratio. This individual attention, division-specific counselors and learning specialists ensure students receive the attention they need.
    • A safe campus. Dawson is surrounded by 700-acres of open space with a single entrance to the campus. We have a full-time Safety & Security team that ensures multiple officers are on-site during the school day as well as during athletic and after-hours events.
    • Experiential learning programs; ropes courses, field trips, Winterim, maker labs, and more are provided at every grade level.
    • Technology, PE, Spanish, library, social emotional learning, and music specials are included in the Lower School curriculum.
    • Upper School provides required college counseling courses in 11th- and 12th-grade.
    • Advanced art programs that allow students to progress in theatre, music, and visual arts as they expand their skills and interest.
    • We encourage and require students to try a bit of everything. Our Innovation Center, Arts Center, Robotics Studio, Ropes Course, and robust Athletics facilities provide students with a bevy of opportunity we believe is important to development.
  • Do you have after school care?

    After School Academy (ASA) in Lower School K-5 | M-R | 3:30-5:00 | is included in cost of tuition with additional clubs you can purchase.
  • What is the 'feel' of the school? Is it welcoming?

    Dawson feels like a small college campus from the minute you enter and wind your way to our main campus. We work hard to make your experience feel familiar and warm from the minute you get here.

    Tours include our students; new families are welcomed with a summer reception and are paired with parent and student ambassadors who help them get acquainted. Dawson Fest also welcomes new and current families back to school each year with a day of food, music, games, and sporting events.
  • What kinds of awards or accolades have you received?

    We are a Niche Best School's winner, most recently being named a top school for both private and STEM education. Dawson is also repeatedly voted best private school in the area by several annual polls, including Boulder Daily Camera’s “BoCoGold,” Boulder Weekly’s “Best of Boulder,” and Yellow Scene magazine’s “Best of the West.” In addition, Dawson Summer Camps has been voted Best or Runner-Up camp in these same polls.
  • What are your safety policies and regulations? Who oversees these?

    Dawson has a full-time Safety and Security team comprised of former Boulder County Deputies who are on-site during school hours, athletics, and all events. Our Director of Safety and Security works closely with trustees and the leadership team to ensure technology, procedures, and policy leverage best practices and that we are always reviewing security proactively.

    There is limited access to buildings, and surveillance cameras throughout campus. We have recently invested in upgrading entry panels, surveillance, and first aid.

    Dawson also requires staff, students, and parents to review and sign an annual code of conduct handbook that includes safety and behavior policies.
  • Do school staff answer to an owner-operator, board of directors, or any other persons or organizations?

    Dawson is governed by a board of trustees, which is a combination of executives of the Alexander Dawson Foundation and local Dawson School parent and alumni trustees, and operated by a head of school and an internal administrative team.

    The trustees guard the school's mission and long-term interests. The head of school is responsible for day-to-day operations.


List of 4 frequently asked questions.

Tuition Assistance

List of 9 frequently asked questions.

  • Do you offer scholarships or aid, and how are those determined? 

    Dawson does not offer merit or athletic scholarships, but we do offer tuition assistance.

    This year, Dawson awarded nearly $2,000,000 in aid across 81 students, with the average award being around $20,000. 
    Dawson subscribes to the National Association of Independent School’s Principles of Good Practice for Financial Aid. The underlying assumption is that parents have an obligation to finance their children’s education to the extent that they are able. Several factors, including family income, assets, liabilities, the size of the family, the age of the parents, provisions for retirement, and extraordinary expenses must be considered when evaluating the family’s financial strength and the ability to contribute to educational expenses. While qualification for tuition assistance is based on all of the factors described above, the most important component of the needs analysis system is family income. The system seeks to treat all families equitably, taking into consideration differences in certain family circumstances that may be beyond its control. There is a distinction made between family expenditures that are made by choice and those of an obligatory nature. 

    All awards will not be considered final until Clarity receives a copy of the IRS Form 1040 (together with all schedules attached to the form), from the parents of the recipient. The Tuition Assistance Committee will review the tax information and has the right to make adjustments of awards after contacting the parents involved. We strongly suggest that families submit their tuition assistance applications as early as possible, recognizing that funds are particularly limited after initial awards have been made.
  • Will applying for tuition assistance affect my child’s chances for admission?

    No. Admission decisions are made without consideration of the financial circumstances of the applicant. After the Admission Committee has reached its decisions, the Tuition Assistance Committee makes grants to admitted students who have submitted tuition assistance applications and have demonstrated need. While Dawson tries to meet the demonstrated need of most newly admitted students, it is possible to be admitted to Dawson but denied tuition assistance. Such students are offered a place on the tuition assistance waiting list.
  • I have no idea if I’ll qualify for tuition assistance. Should I still apply?

    Families have nothing to lose but the time it takes to complete the online application and the nominal application fee required by TADS, so unless you are reasonably sure you will not qualify, you are welcome to apply. If you are unsure about whether to apply, please contact Admissions for further information.

    In a typical year, the number of qualified candidates for tuition assistance is greater than the amount of tuition assistance that we have available. As a result, it is possible to be offered admission to Dawson School but be denied tuition assistance because of a lack of available funds. In these cases, applicants are placed on our tuition assistance waiting list. We remove applicants from the tuition assistance waiting list if additional funds become available.
  • What is Dawson's philosophy with regard to tuition assistance?

    Dawson School is committed to providing need-based tuition assistance each year to new and returning families.  We understand that a Dawson education is a significant investment, and the mission behind the tuition assistance program is to give families, regardless of their ability to pay, the opportunity to attend.  Because the money allocated to families is not a loan, we do not ask for repayment.

    The tuition assistance program at Dawson School is guided by the belief that parents have an obligation to pay the educational expenses of their children to the extent that they are able.  A tuition assistance budget exists to fill the gap between the actual cost of tuition and what a family can realistically be expected to pay toward this cost. The methodology used to determine the parental contribution considers many factors, including, but not limited to, assets, liabilities, age of parents and children, family size, and the number of students in tuition-charging schools.
  • What is Dawson's policy on aid confidentiality?

    Dawson School understands that tuition assistance is a sensitive issue for families and the School.  As such, Dawson adheres to strict guidelines safeguarding awards, families’ income taxes, and relative information.  The expectation is that families who receive a tuition assistance award will do the same and keep all information private – by not doing so, families run the risk of losing their award.
  • What about divorced or separated parents?

    It is the position of the school that divorced, separated, or non-married parents retain the obligation to contribute to the education of their children. Many divorce settlements stipulate the exact amount each parent must contribute toward educational costs, or which parent is responsible for costs and for how long. We consider such agreements but may also require each parent to contribute as much as our calculations show they can afford, regardless of the terms of a divorce settlement. In some instances this amount is less than the court’s decision; in others it is more.

    The Tuition Assistance Committee will consider the resources of both natural parents, if living, before making an award. If either natural parent remarries, we will take into consideration the obligation of the parent to his or her new family. We will include in the calculations the resources of the step-parent, bearing in mind the obligation of the step parent to his or her natural children. Both natural parents must, therefore, provide the tuition assistance information by submitting a TADS application.
  • Why do I have to re-apply for assistance every year?

    Each student’s need is recalculated annually. Parents are, therefore, required to submit a TADS application and tax forms each year. Unless there is a significant change in demonstrated financial need, a family can expect that grants will be renewed at the original level of funding. Normally a family can expect that tuition assistance will be continued throughout the student’s enrollment, provided the financial need is substantiated yearly. Tuition assistance will not, however, be awarded to families who have delinquent accounts with the school.
  • What is Dawson's methodology in determining awarding tuition assistance?

    Dawson School and the National Association of Independent Schools (NAIS) work within defined principles of good practice.  In these principles, independent schools are given latitude as to what guidelines inform and determine tuition assistance decisions. There are specific tuition assistance guidelines that Dawson has established in order to keep family contributions equitable and consistent. Dawson’s guidelines consist of the following:

    To qualify and receive tuition assistance, both parents must be employed—unless it is not medically possible, there are extenuating circumstances, or if the parent(s) has/have a child under the age of six. If a parent chooses not to work, the School will impute an income for that individual.

    Business owners are required to complete all necessary forms required by TADS. Please note that TADS will ask for all supporting tax information, as these forms are part of the tuition assistance process.

  • How many Dawson students receive tuition assistance?

    Typically, nearly 20% of Dawson students receive some measure of tuition assistance.

Academics, Arts, and Athletics

List of 14 frequently asked questions.

  • What are your teachers’ qualifications and what professional development opportunities are available to them?

    70% of our faculty have advanced degrees. We have an 88% faculty retention rate with an average tenure of 8 years. We currently have no first-year teachers on staff. 

    Dawson provides dedicated professional development days, and each division is provided budget to support professional development activities. The Dawson Fund also provides funding for unique opportunities.

    Because our faculty is so passionate about what they do, they also take it upon themselves to provide learning opportunities for others. For example, our Innovation and Technology Team hosts a maker space course each year so that faculty and staff can use our Innovation Center, learn new skills, and discover ways to incorporate into their own lessons.

    Our teaching faculty notes the following reasons they stay at Dawson year after year:

    They feel they’re making a difference. 
    They value collegial relationships and being part of a team.
    They are passionate about their subject matter and feel they have the freedom to bring it to life.
    They love bearing witness to student growth. 
  • What support systems/structures are in place for learning support?

    We have full time Learning Specialists in each division to oversee our program.  Individualized responses are created for student needs.  
    Commonly provided accommodations at Dawson:
    • Extended Time on Assessments 
    • Testing in a Separate Location  
    • Preferential Seating in Class 
    • Audio Books (through Learning Ally and/or Bookshare) 
    • Speech to text
    • Use of calculator on assessments 
    • Ability to type in-class essays and notes
    • Breaks
  • What extracurricular activities do you offer?

    Dawson boasts some of the nicest student facilities in Boulder County and the co-curricular program is fortunate to use them. With the assistance of a full-time athletic trainer, student-athletes train and compete on four different soccer fields, two lacrosse fields, two baseball diamonds, two gymnasiums, six tennis courts, cyclocross and cross-country courses and a complete weight room, all of which are often in demand and appreciated by off campus organizations, as well. Likewise, students participating in non-athletic co-curricular offerings also take advantage of the outstanding indoor facilities, including a new state-of-the-art maker space, dedicated dance room, theater, top-notch art facilities, and the brand new innovation center.

    Co-curricular activities include: soccer, cross-country, volleyball, tennis, cyclocross, basketball, baseball, canoe and kayak, golf, lacrosse, Speech and Debate, plays and musicals, robotics, internships, and community service
  • Community service: Do you offer community service? Is this a curriculum requirement or an extracurricular initiative?

    Dawson students and teachers in all grades participate in community service. The sophomore class focuses on our community virtue of compassion and complete required hours throughout the year in addition to a four day service trip to start off the school year.
  • What is your approach to dealing with discipline?

    Dawson requires that its students conduct themselves in the best interest of the community. The School encourages observance of its virtues as the foundation of a healthy community and expects all of its students to adhere to high standards of conduct. The School understands that people make mistakes and will work with students and families to move the individual and community in a positive direction when mistakes are made.
  • Do you have a homework policy, and if so, what is it?

    LS : Homework is considered a building block for strengthening the work done in Lower School. Beginning in kindergarten, homework is part of a Dawson student's daily plan. Homework should not become a family burden or responsibility. If a student has difficulty with a homework assignment, parents/guardians are encouraged to contact the teacher via phone or email for further clarification. In general, students are given homework assignments to provide follow-up, reinforcement, enrichment, and continuity in the context of the overall curriculum plan. Due to the differences in students' study habits, abilities, and assignments, it is very difficult to state the exact amount of time that should be spent on homework. The following is a very general guideline of expectations:

    • Kindergarten: 10 minutes per night
    • Grade 1: 10-15 minutes per night
    • Grade 2: 20 minutes per night
    • Grade 3: 30 minutes per night
    • Grade 4: 40 minutes per night
    • Grade 5: 50 minutes per night

    We strive to make our homework meaningful and relevant to our students. 6th through 8th typically have one to two hours, and the upper school students average two hours per night.
  • How do you prepare students for college?

    • Challenging academics and curriculum designed for higher education.
    • Required college counseling classes for eleventh and twelfth-grade students.
    • A dedicated college counseling staff
    • Upper School preview and college counseling Q&A events for middle school families.
    • Education for upper school families to ensure everyone is confident in the college application process.
    • Individualized College Planning meetings for all upper school students based on their unique goals and personality assessments.
    • Specialized support for students seeking to attend arts or other discipline-focused colleges/programs.
    • Optional standardized testing preparation.
    • Grade-level college nights for upper school students and their parents.
    • Visits from over 100 colleges and universities each year..
    • Provide students community service, extracurriculars, and other programs we know that colleges are seeking
  • How much time is spent outside or at recess?

    Students have several opportunities to get outside on campus. Multiple recesses in Lower School, passing periods and class breaks in Middle and Upper School, and of course time outside after the finish eating at lunch.
  • What do students do for Lower/Middle/Upper School athletics? 

    Lower School has PE twice a week for 45 minutes as part of their Specials rotation. They also get plenty of time on the playground.

    Middle School co-currriculars run from 2:40-3:40 p.m. every day. There are four, eight-week seasons, giving kids a myriad of opportunities throughout the year. 

    Upper School athletics run after the academic day, generally from 3:45-5:30 p.m.. We compete under the 2a classification in the Mile High League. 
  • What kinds of facilities and resources do you have?

    - Divison-specific libraries and playgrounds, including a brand new playground in the Lower School
    - 25,000 sq ft Innovation Center
    - Arts Center with performing arts theatre, dance studio, music hall, and studios for pottery, painting, digital design, and jewelry (recently updated).
    - Two gymnasiums, weight room, multiple tennis courts and fields, ropes course and climbing wall, plus a cyclocross course.
  • How do you deal with a child who isn’t meeting academic expectations or who has gaps in his or her knowledge?

    uncheckedOur small class sizes allow our teachers to give individualized attention to our students and they  provide extra academic help in and out of the classroom. We provided Academic Lab time and Office Hours in the Middle and Upper Schools for extra help for students. We also have faculty advisors, a learning specialists, and our Academic Dean that works with families and students to help them succeed. 
  • Do you offer an International Baccalaureate (IB) program?

    No. Dawson offers a robust AP program. We prefer AP courses to an IB program because it offers college-level work and the rigor colleges seek but allows students to take a variety of classes and try new things. This flexibility keeps students engaged and reduces burnout. Learn more about the difference between AP and IB programs.
  • If a sport isn’t offered at Dawson (gymnastics and track for example), where do kids compete in these sports if they want to pursue and compete with other schools?

    If Dawson doesn't offer a sport, students can join a team in BVSD or their home district if different. Placement on outside teams is at the discretion of the school district you join. Please contact Mike Jacobsma, our Athletic Director, for more details.
  • Do you have standardized testing?

    • LS-NWEA MAP test 3 times a year
    • MS - NWEA MAP test 2 times a year
    • PSAT, ACT, SAT, and AP exams in Upper School