Vail Valley schools’ transition to online learning not seamless, but it’s pretty smooth |

Vail Valley schools’ transition to online learning not seamless, but it’s pretty smooth

Online learning working well, so far, for both public, private schools

There are upsides to online learning and quarantine, like the elementary school student who, for show and tell, showed off his little brother.

Then there’s Vail Mountain School teacher Julia Litman’s tutorial about baking banana bread, and the virtual VMS spirit day and the kindergarten fancy party.

Dozens of parents gather in a chat room to talk about homework and ask questions.

With everyone banned from school buildings, all local public and private schools are offering classes online. It works pretty well, generally.

“It has gone remarkably well given the magnitude of the transitions,” Dan Dougherty, the school district’s chief communications officer said.

As of last week, virtually all of Eagle County’s public school students have virtually checked in with their teachers. Right now the students are completing about 70% of their assignments, the school district’s Melisa Rewold-Thuon told the school board.

Your dog didn’t eat your homework

A few holdouts still had not checked-in by late last week. Like most in-person classrooms, teachers corral them into groups and virtually walk them through their schoolwork.

“If we don’t see engagement after a couple days, we talk to the parents to see if they need some kind of assistance to be engaged,” Rewold-Thuon said.

For students who might not have online access, the school district has Chromebook computers checked out all over the county. They also set up internet hotspots in places like Eagle River Village mobile home park, where access can be spotty.

Younger students are getting traditional work packets.

We’re ahead of most

It’s an adjustment, but schools up and down the valley were miles ahead of many across the country even before the pandemic. Between 30% and 40% of U.S. schools were prepared to offer online instruction, says the American Association of School Administrators. Less than half of U.S. schools have trained teachers to do this, and less than half have laptop-loaner programs, the AASA said.

In the meantime, the Colorado Department of Education dispensed with this year’s standardized testing and waived students’ seat-time requirements — time that teachers and students are required to be in a classroom together.

Around the valley, principals are having virtual staff meetings; teachers are having virtual planning meetings.

Vail Mountain School’s Mike Imperi urged people to think of others first.

“Although most of our students are in the low-risk category, that is not true for a significant portion of Eagle County residents and guests. We must consider the health and well-being of others and we must act in accordance with caring for all,” Imperi said.

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