Schools evaluate plan for in-person learning
Middle Park High School teacher Erin-Rose Schneider has been quarantining alone in her house for 12 days.
The math teacher is one of many members of the East Grand School District community who has had to quarantine in the past month after being exposed to COVID-19 at school.
“Being in quarantine for the last 12 days has stripped me of any sense of normalcy,” Schneider told the school board Tuesday. “We should not be asked to put our lives on hold to provide ‘normal’ during a pandemic … I love my job, but it is not my whole life. And there is nothing ‘normal’ about our situation right now.”
All but one of East Grand’s four schools has moved to online learning through Thanksgiving Break due to COVID-19 cases, with Granby Elementary still in-person. At Tuesday’s school board meeting, leaders weighed the costs and benefits of in-person instruction following Thanksgiving Break.
Schneider asked the East Grand Board of Education to consider moving all classes online through the winter break as Grand County sees a rise in COVID-19 cases across the community. She highlighted the anxiety she feels not knowing if she’ll be quarantined again and not wanting other teachers to have to face that as well.
“It’s not about being inconvenienced,” she said through tears. “It’s about being in quarantine and that your life — because of your job — has stopped.”
Schneider was not the only teacher to share her thoughts to the board. Other staff members expressed their desire to keep teaching in-person if possible.
Granby Elementary science teacher Sara Rector asked for a district approach that takes into account the needs of students who have already seen a large disruption, especially younger students.
“I am a parent of three students in East Grand School District as well as a teacher,” Rector said in the email that was read to the board. “I see every day, both in my family and at school, the value of these kids having their normal routine and engaging with people outside their own families.”
Beyond that, she pointed out that for students who have lost their homes in the East Troublesome Fire, online schooling will be an extra challenge.
Superintendent Frank Reeves said that many students are dealing with trauma due to both the fire and the pandemic. He said that especially for younger students, in-person learning helps with processing these difficulties.
The school principals outlined what they were hearing from teachers, who almost all want to teach in person but weigh that against the risks as COVID-19 cases continue to spike in the county.
“I think every one of my teachers would tell you that they want to be back in person to meet the kids’ needs, but under the caveat that it’s safe,” Fraser Valley Elementary Principal James Chamberlin said.
Another consideration is working parents. Rosalie Rust, mother of three students in the district, highlighted the concerns in her neighborhood where many parents have to take time off from work if students aren’t in school.
“In Granby Jones, a lot of our parents here rely on the schools, and particularly the elementary school, to be able to continue to work in their jobs,” Rust said.
The district also consulted with local health officials. Reeves explained that younger students have been less likely to catch or spread the virus compared to adults. High school students are more like adults when it comes to having and spreading the virus at higher rates.
The board ultimately decided to return to in-person learning immediately following Thanksgiving Break for Granby Elementary, Fraser Valley Elementary and East Grand Middle School. The high school will continue online learning the week after Thanksgiving, possibly returning to in-person instruction Dec. 7.
West Grand came to a somewhat similar decision this week. Kindergarten through fifth grade students are expected to return to in-person learning Nov. 30, but sixth through 12th grades will remain in remote learning through winter break.
“While we all would like to have all students in person, this decision met a lot of what was asked for by West Grand staffulty and the West Grand community,” West Grand leadership said in a Facebook post.
The decisions for both districts are not concrete and online learning could be extended for any of the schools depending on COVID-19 cases at the time.
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US Forest Service officials have closed Willow Creek Reservoir in Grand County because of a potential blue-green algae bloom.