Park County School District RE-2 and Platte Canyon School District RE-1 are working diligently to continue the business of educating students while also adhearing to health guidelines set forth by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to combat the spread of the corona virus.
PCSD RE-2 Superintendent Cindy Bear, and PCSD RE-1 Superintendent Mike Schmidt each took time recently to provide reports to The Flume regarding how students and staff have handled the new normal during the initial stages of the new academic year.
Upon accepting her post as PCSD RE-2 Superintendent, Bear inherited an abundance of daunting challenges. She and her staff took a proactive, transparent approach to meeting those challenges in recent months, and many of the issues facing the district have been addressed, and in some cases, reconciled.
One issue Bear probably didn’t anticipate, however, was how to carry out the task of educating students in the midst of a viral pandemic.
According to Bear, all has gone remarkably well since students returned to campus Sept. 8.
“The only thing that has made reopening possible is the incredible positive attitudes of the staff here,” Bear said. “Everyone has tackled every obstacle with determination and perseverance. They have embraced and accepted restrictions and found ways to work around anything that has arisen. I am so proud to work here.”
As if reopening the campus to students under a myriad of health restrictions wasn’t challenging enough, the first day of school, one day after Labor Day, ushered in about a foot of new snow. As a result, the second day of school, Sept. 9, was delayed by several hours.
“Considering we had a snowstorm on the first day of school, (Sept.8) and a delayed start on the second day, I’d say the first week was fairly uneventful,” Bear said. “We can handle snowstorms. As long as the staff and students remain healthy and we are able to keep our doors open, we will have a successful year.”
At a regularly-scheduled school board meeting July 21, Bear insisted that the district would take a case-by-case approach to determine the needs and wishes students and their families. Once those needs and preferences were determined, the district would tailor each student’s schedule accordingly.
“There is no way we could create a plan that feels right to everyone, so our plan is to give you options as parents,” bear stated.
As a result, about 25% of PCSD RE-2 students opted for distance-learning, while roughly 75% of the district’s students opted to return to campus for in-person learning.
According to Bear, COVID-19 restrictions have presented a variety of challenges and obstacles for all parties involved, some of which have been technology-related.
“There have been numerous challenges on this journey of opening the doors to students again,” Bear admitted. “Many of our procedures had to change and those changes had to get pushed out to families so we essentially had to approach the whole student body as ‘new students.’ We spent three full days conducting student orientations. Families reserved a time to come in so we could communicate personally with them. We were not a “one-to-one” school district, but have had to become one in order to provide adequate supplies to students in the event of a shutdown and provide supplies to all remote learners. Our teachers had to be trained to be remote teachers even though they have students sitting in their classrooms, so everyone is prepared to go remote at any given moment. This of course has put a significant strain on our broadband availability.”
Bear added that the district has not hired additional staff for cleaning, but it has strategically scheduled custodial staff to ensure regular cleaning practices.
“We have purchased more efficient products like a disinfecting sprayer that saves time and staff,” Bear said. “Because of changes in our procedures, we are able to reassign our staff to far more intensive cleaning routines.”
Classrooms have been cleared of clutter so space can be maximized, and the district has installed clear desk screens so students will have additional protection while sitting in class. By offering the option of remote learning, the district has been able to lower the number of students in class at a given time, according to Bear.
Bear also said the district does not plan to hold Homecoming festivities, but that Spirit Week activities could possibly happen depending on the circumstances at that time.
Platte Canyon School District 1 opened its doors to students Aug. 17, but this year looks vastly different from previous years.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention released guidelines that the schools are required to follow and enforce. Some of those requirements include all faculty members and students wearing masks at all times except during lunch, social distancing, no grouping, etc.
Students were mainly impacted by the mandatory mask order, as well as the social distancing orders. After a long summer, students are understandably eager to converse and socialize with others.
“Students have been exceptionally compliant, especially inside our buildings,” said PCSD RE-1 Superintendent Mike Schmidt. “The older students are struggling a little with social distancing when outdoors. When students lose their masks, the school has resources in place to replace them. Platte Canyon is grateful for those who have donated boxes of masks to the district.”
To encourage social distancing, the students eat theirmeals outside. As temperatures are about to drop soon, parents were concerned as to where students will be eating.
“We will utilize outdoor space for as long as possible, but we do have sufficient space within our buildings to do everything we need to do safely” Schmidt assured.
PCSD RE-1 is hoping to hire additional janitorial staff in the near future. For now, “Students and teachers have taken on some of the daily disinfecting tasks within classrooms” Schmidt stated.
Clubs will continue; however, there will not be any after school meetings. Sports will continue but with modified schedules.
About 135 students within the district have chosen to do online-learning. Schmidt says the district supports families in whichever option they choose.
Recently, the district announced in its regularly-scheduled electronic update that students who wished to do so could stay after school for additional instruction with teachers. After school meetings had previously not been allowed due to health concerns.
“FMS and PCHS students seeking additional instruction from teachers may make such arrangements beginning today, Monday Sept. 14,” the announcement stated. “All health precautions will continue to be observed during these scheduled meetings. The same is true for club meetings, as long as they can be conducted in a socially-distanced manner.”
The addition of afterschool meetings is a sign of progress, and Schmidt recently expressed his satisfaction with the way the district has handled a return to campus beneath the shadow of the ongoing viral pandemic.
“I’m proud of our staff members who executed the first
week brilliantly,” Schmidt said. “I’m pleased with the positive attitudes and adaptability of our students in implementing our safety precautions. Finally, I’m grateful for the overwhelming support we’ve received from families, ranging from encouraging words, donations, and positive, constructive suggestions to patience with longer than normal lines at student pick up and drop off.”
As the school year continues to move forward, Schmidt hopes that “we eventually move into a more traditional school year, but also that we continue to incorporate some of the new methods of instruction that have been made necessary by our circumstances in order to continue to improve the experiences of our students. We’re just happy that we have been able to provide critical in-person instruction to our students and we want to do that as long as we can do so safely.”
Additional updates can be found on the Platte Canyon School District’s website, www.plattecanyonschools.org. Students and parents are also sent weekly email updates.