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High schools let lights shine as students take to online learning

Middle Park High School Athletic Director Mike Reigan takes a moment to look across the school's football field after turning on the lights at 9 p.m. Monday.
Eli Pace / epace@skyhinews.com

Middle Park and West Grand recently turned on the lights over their high schools’ football fields as a nod to the students whose school year has been wrecked by the new coronavirus.

With Middle Park returning from spring break — albeit the students came back digitally through distance learning methods — the lights over Panther field came on at 9 p.m. Monday with Athletic Director Mike Reigan flipping the switch.

Like other schools across the state have done, Middle Park turned on its lights for 30 minutes to show the students their school remains active and to let them know that the teachers, administrators, coaches and staff are all thinking about them during the mandated closure, Reigan explained.

“We think about them all the time,” he said. “It’s a strange time we’re in right now, but we’re definitely thinking about them.”

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The lights are on at Panther field.

Posted by Sky-Hi News on Monday, April 6, 2020

On Friday, West Grand High School turned its lights on as a show of solidarity with its students. The school turned the lights on for 30 minutes to symbolize the 30 days of mandated closures and let students know that their teachers and staff still support them.

The schools have been closed since mid-March, when coronavirus closures started ripping across the country. Fresh off spring break, Middle Park came back into the full swing of distance learning this week.

“We were (doing some schooling online) before the break, but it was pretty relaxed so now we’ve ramped it up a little bit,” East Grand Superintendent Frank Reeves said.

Instruction varies somewhat based on what the teacher feels comfortable with, but educators have set up live meetings to check in with their students after posting lesson plans, required readings, videos and other assignments online.

“Our teachers at the middle and high school, they all have office hours posted for the kids so the kids can get one on one help,” Reeves added. “Students and teachers can set up other times obviously, but those are the times teachers are at their computers ready and waiting.”

While Reeves and Reigan welcomed students’ return to academics, there’s so much at the schools that has been lost it doesn’t seem fair. Many winter athletes didn’t get to have their end of season banquets. Spring sports were wiped out before they began, and planning anything like prom or graduation right now seems foolish.

Some schools in the state have already decided they will remain shuttered for the remainder of the school year.

Everything ended so abruptly that Reigan and Reeves both said they hope Middle Park can get students back into the building, even if only for a week or two in May.

Reigan didn’t want to guess when the schools might be able to reopen, but he hopes that, if nothing else, some things like a small prom or graduation ceremony can come together for the students.

As for graduation, Reeves said he doesn’t yet know what form that might take, but Middle Park will celebrate its class of 2020. Reeves said the school is looking into online ceremonies, but he would rather have one in person.

“Even if it goes into July, I think we’d prefer to have a live graduation ceremony for our kids,” Reeves said, adding that Middle Park might end up doing one online and one in person later this year.

According to the Colorado High School Activities Association, more than 70 schools and school districts across the state have joined the #BeTheLightCO trend, including West Grand and Middle Park.

“The school buildings may be closed, the fields and courts empty, the stadiums quiet, but that does not mean we have forgotten the reason why we are here — our students,” West Grand wrote in a Facebook post with a photo of the lights blazing. “The students are the heartbeat of our schools. We support them, miss them and can’t wait to see them again.”

The lights at West Grand High School’s stadium light up for 30 minutes to show support for students Friday night in Kremmling.
West Grand High School Facebook post

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