School Views: Time for a well-deserved break
Eagle County School District is excited to have made it all the way to our last break, our Spring Break, having been in school for in-person learning most of this school year. It hasn’t been easy, and we’ve relied on the collaboration, support, and patience of parents — thank you.
We’ve also relied on the collaboration, support, and courage of our staff. Our dedicated educators have worked tirelessly to meet the needs of students to the best of our ability this school year. From the outset to today, providing in-person learning required a wholesale change in the way we provided educational services. From the outside looking in, we hope it seemed fairly easy and straightforward. But from the inside, there were many challenges.
We took a collaborative, cooperative learning process rooted in intentional hands-on, minds-on group learning that requires close student proximity and reworked it to maximize space and provide engaging instruction for students, whether students were in-person or attending remotely. Teaching responsibilities for many staff members were reprioritized to create student cohorts.
We added health screenings, sanitation practices, and rolled with the quarantine impacts from positive cases over time. Our planning plus fortitude and flexibility made it happen. And, while I said we worked tirelessly, we are tired. We need this break. All of us — staff, students, and parents.
We want you to enjoy your break, but must remind everyone to follow the prevailing guidelines for wherever you go. Check the CDC travel guidelines before, during, and after your travel. Vaccinations make travel safer this time around, but many restrictions remain in place. Take it in stride and don’t allow minor inconveniences to take away from your fun.
When we return from break, it’s a short dash to the end of the school year. We still need to be careful and will continue wearing masks in school. At this point, we expect social distancing requirements to remain in place, but know that we work with our public health partners every day and remain committed to improving the student learning experience when we can.
At the time of writing this column, our county’s rate of virus transmission is still 2.5 times the amount it needs to be to move into a lower level. Our positivity rates are closer to orange than blue. Let this remind us to stay committed until the end. Thanks to Eagle County Public Health and Vail Health, our vaccination rates are great and getting better every week. Just this week, a special clinic was held at one of our high schools to help vaccinate students aged 16 and over. Getting juniors and seniors vaccinated not only supports their health and well-being, but also improves conditions for end-of-year traditions like graduation and prom.
Our traditional high schools are actively planning in-person graduations and proms. We will abide by the prevailing restrictions at the time, which are expected to continuously improve. We are planning outdoor events to maximize gathering sizes. Details will be forthcoming.
As this school year comes to an end, we have a lot to be thankful for. In-person learning has happened. Athletics have happened. Plays have happened. Extracurricular activities have happened. And, they have happened at high levels with our hockey team becoming state champs, and speech and debate competitors finishing high in the state and going on to nationals.
It has been a challenge and we can choose to fixate on what went well or what didn’t. We believe what went well for students far exceeded those things that didn’t. Next year, we are focusing on rekindling relationships, renewing friendships, restoring the love for learning. If you haven’t started that process already, let it begin during this Spring Break.
Philip Qualman is the superintendent of Eagle County Schools. Email him at email@example.com.