A learning curve: Districts prep for back to school
Desks separated by six feet of distance, designated mask breaks and outdoor classrooms are likely to be some of the hallmarks of the 2020-21 school year, which kicked off in Grand County this week.
Over at West Grand schools, students returned on Monday and, so far, Superintendent Darrin Peppard said it’s been a great start.
“It’s been positive to see kids back in school and not only to see the looks on students’ faces, but on teachers’ faces,” Peppard said. “So we’re wearing masks? It’s still school, and teaching and learning is happening.”
About 80% of both East and West Grand school district’s students are expected to return in-person this year, while roughly 20% will be completing homeschool or an online education program.
East Grand Superintendent Frank Reeves highlighted mask wearing, social distancing and sanitizing as the three key components to keeping students and teachers healthy and schools open.
“We all need to continually take those safety precautions and not drop those,” Reeves said.
Peppard echoed the sentiment, noting that while teachers and administrators are experts in education, they aren’t the experts in public health.
“When it comes to everything to do with public health, that’s not our area of expertise and we’re going to lean on and trust those who have that expertise,” he said.
In an effort to bring back a somewhat normal school year, the school districts in Grand County have laid out several extra precautions that students, teachers and the school will have to take, including morning symptom checks and limiting bus seating to one student or family group per seat.
Other changes include one-way hallways, sack-style lunches and no access to lockers. The districts will also have zero tolerance policies for students who refuse to wear masks or who are showing symptoms.
Ultimately, the goal of all of these policies is to be able to continue safe in-person learning throughout the school year, which Reeves explained provides a sense of normalcy for students.
“The number one effort is trying to be back in person for our kids and for our families it’s really important,” he said.
Reeves noted that other school districts that have opened haven’t seen much issue with requiring masks, so he’s hopeful that students will be responsible throughout the day.
“Kids are responding well,” Reeves said. “In all honesty, the kids who are coming back to school want to come back and they know if we don’t follow those general guidelines then we’re not going to be open very long.”
Despite all of the planning that has already gone into the school year, district officials are still warning families, students and teachers to prepare for possible changes since it’s expected that the schools will have to adjust throughout the year.
“What we want to learn is what plans are working well and what’s bringing about the most normalcy to kids,” Reeves said. “We’ll be constantly reviewing our plan and putting it up against what else is happening… This is unchartered territory for everyone, so let’s stay positive.”
Even with all of the precautions and potential for change, Peppard is optimistic that the school district is prepared for the year to come.
“I expect that we will meet the needs of our students from an academic perspective and a social-emotional perspective,” he said.
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