LFI program students from Carroll Springs attend school's first Valentine's dance

Dressed in a pink, heart-print dress, kindergartner Katie Lutz spent Friday afternoon bopping on the dance floor with her mother and grandmother at a dance she had been excited about for days.

Her mother Liz Lutz said Katie enjoys dancing. Earlier, she crafted a handmade a Valentine’s Day card for her mom. She hadn’t had a chance to choose a song to play yet, though her mother joked that they were a little worried about what she would choose — Katie loves heavy metal music.


Friday marked the first in-school Valentine’s dance for students in the Learning for Independence program at Carroll Springs School in Westminster.

While the Lions Club has hosted for several years a communitywide Valentine’s dance in the evening that brings together students and adults from the whole county, Principal Gretchen Rockafellow said it can be difficult for some of her students to come back or stay late in the evening.

This dance was the first one that was just for them.

The gym was filled with pink and red streamers and garlands and sparkling heart decorations.

The dance floor was full and the music was varied from classic songs to modern movie tracks.

Rockafellow said all the staff trained to learn the augmentative and alternative communication for every student so they could all come together for the event.

The goal of the dance was to figure out, “How can we make this happen for all students?” said educator Sara Givens.

She had the original suggestion for the Valentine’s Day activity, but stressed that it was a huge collaboration between all of the staff.

Almost everyone from students to staff spent at least some time on the dance floor.

Guiliana Green, in her bright-pink fuzzy slippers, was smiling as she spun around on the floor dancing to the music.

Guiliana is happy “anytime she can be out of her chair. She loves to move around,” said instructional assistant Lexi Ehrman.

Nearby Ryan Gittere was smiling widely as physical educator teacher John Etzel pushed his chair in time to a song.

In their classrooms, the students had taken a poll for what type of music they wanted to hear at the dance. Song suggestions ranged from “Old MacDonald” to “We Will Rock You.”

On a jukebox-style system, the dancers could choose which song they wanted to play using a set of two buttons wired up to the television.


“It’s the heart of the whole thing,” Givens said.

The decorations were a team effort, she added.

The dance was split into a few areas: a dance floor, activity tables,a photo station with props and a quiet corner with some sensory activities where they could take a break from the hubbub.

At two tables, students could do a science activity with candy hearts or make valentines for their friends and family.

Earlier in the week, students looked at popular messages for valentines. Givens said that without the communication focus, the kids might not get to choose the materials for their valentines or the message they want on it.

LFI high school teacher Christy Stodulka said the activity is also a good way to practice fine motor skills.

The staff has been planning the dance since around December, and it’s part of Rockafellow’s goal to have an activity every month.

One of the most important skills, Stodulka said, is the social aspect of bringing all the kids and staff together, “of getting everyone involved and working with everyone” outside of their classrooms.

Looking out over the full dance floor as Shakira's “Try Everything” from “Zootopia” played, Stodulka summed up the event: “It seems to be a big hit.”