School Views: Welcome to the 2020-21 school year |

School Views: Welcome to the 2020-21 school year

Philip Qualman
Eagle County Schools

On behalf of all Eagle County School District employees, I welcome students and parents back to school. Even though we are starting in a modified in-school model of instruction, we are excited to reconnect with students and continue along the journey back toward a pre-pandemic sense of normalcy.

We wish to thank all community members for coming together to increase our compliance with safety standards to turn back the uptick in cases that had threatened our ability to get back to in-person instruction. Please keep it up so that we can stay in school. Ours is an amazing community and when we focus on a common goal, it is usually attained.

This year will continue to be different in structural ways, but similar where it counts — reaching the hearts and minds of students. The district had an incredibly busy summer preparing for various instructional scenarios. We’ve simplified the online user experience to enhance remote learning should it be necessary. And, we’ve restructured schedules, school layouts, classroom layouts, and worked our way around holding large assemblies and gatherings.

Our staff has participated in training on keeping schools safe and resilient and working in a “flipped” classroom model of instruction. Beyond the demands of the pandemic, the flipped model is intriguing. The “lecture” part of the instruction happens remotely with the “application” of skills occurring in-person with the assistance of the teacher.

We will need substantial parent cooperation this year. The keys to keeping schools open are:

  1. Staying home if you’re sick or have been knowingly exposed to the virus.
  2. Wearing face coverings when around others, and in school.
  3. Maintaining as much social distance as possible.
  4. Quickly identifying and removing those with symptoms from circulation.
  5. Cleaning and sanitizing throughout the day and each night.

The combination of these actions results in learning environments that are as virus-free as possible. When the inevitable outbreak occurs, we will work with public health to transition the smallest possible group of students and staff to temporary remote instruction to stop further spread of the virus while maintaining continuity of learning.

Youth-serving organizations in the community are developing Wednesday options for our youngest students. We are grateful for their support and creativity in opening services for students on Wednesdays while teachers hold meetings and plan for new ways to instruct. More details will be available soon about Wednesday offerings. 

Please take the time to review the reopening plan that is being shared through schools in printed form and is available on our website in digital form. It contains the essential steps that schools, parents, and students will need to take for the safest possible in-person learning experience. Talk to your children and tell them that they need to keep their distance from one another at bus stops and upon arrival at school. Reassure them that the new rules are temporary and precautionary. It will be toughest for younger students, so just patiently and consistently remind and support them.

Despite the challenges, we have a wonderful year of school planned. We anticipate keeping students so engaged with learning that they quickly adapt and get past the inconveniences of keeping their faces covered. They will learn, laugh, and grow, as will we all.

Working together to learn together is the expression on our reopening plan. Please keep that in mind all year long. Support our staff — bus drivers, educators, office staff, and principals — with kindness and patience. We have designed a flexible system with student care and learning at its core and are delighted to see everyone again.

Philip Qualman is the superintendent of Eagle County Schools. Email him at

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