At home, Summit students, teachers, parents learn as they go through coronavirus quarantine situation
DILLON — A mother of six children in school, Laura Brown of Breckenridge and her family have been through a trying situation that disrupted schooling before. It came a few years back when the family was living in Puerto Rico as the island was affected by the devastating Hurricane Maria.
With the Summit School District school buildings closed amid the coronavirus pandemic, the current school-from-home situation for the Browns, in some ways, is like that experience in Puerto Rico two-and-a-half years ago. Brown said overall the remote academic situation for her children has been a positive experience, with teachers at Summit High School, The Peak School and Colorado Learning Connections doing their best to make the unprecedented situation a positive one.
But for her children, especially Summit High School seniors Courtney and Tommy, the experience has been more difficult in certain and important ways.
“Emotionally, for them,” the mother Laura said, “This is a totally different experience with them not being able to have things, like the ways that they experience their friends and extracurricular activities.”
For two weeks school children, teachers and parents across Summit County have adjusted to the sudden, foreign situation of schooling from home. For many families across Summit County like the Browns — who now have a college student, three high schoolers, a middle schooler and an elementary student all on varying remote-learning schedules under one roof — this has been a one day at a time learning experience.
At times it’s been turbulent. The biggest challenge for many parents and teachers has been keeping students upbeat and interested in classes despite social-distancing measures — measures that, several families said, have been tortuous in moments for their energetic, restless outdoors-loving Summit County kids.
From one student, one class and one school to another, the approaches and strategies employed by teachers have been on a wide spectrum. Some teachers, like Summit High School world language teacher Liz Waddick and physical education and health teacher James Wagner, have opted for sharing with students content and exercises via pre-made video lessons. Other teachers, like Upper Blue Elementary School fifth-grade teacher Ashley Girodo, have opted for a more regular habit of live video conferences via software like Zoom.
“The first day she sent out work for students,” Naomi McMahon said, talking about Girodo, “it’s like she just knew instantly after their first Zoom as a class that some students were going to need more, some would need less. …What my son Luke looks forward to the most is getting up and Zooming with class.”
Waddick balances her own teaching with that of her first-grade son Marty, who loves going on FaceTime to video chat with his Dillon Valley Elementary teacher Hollyanna Bates each morning .
“It’s about finding balance,” Waddick said. “They’re not forcing him to do things. We want him to love it.”
Parents and students across the county have said instructors have done a good job understanding local parents and kids are in a never-before-experienced situation.
According to district spokeswoman Mikki Grebetz, the district is terming the at-home schooling situation from Monday, March 16 through, as of now, Friday, April 17 as a “dismissal.” Grebetz shared the district is looking at the month-long situation as one where students are provided learning opportunities while all district staff deliver lessons and provide support services. Some schools, such as Summit High School, already had an established remote-learning infrastructure in place.
Grebetz said students were not expected to engage online on March 16 and March 17, as the two days were devoted to providing time for teachers to set up their online learning spaces and lessons for virtual learning.
For the students across the county like Summit High senior Mackenna Simson, who usually depart school early as part of the Academic Athlete program, the current scenario is a little more familiar. Simson says she feels better prepared for the quarantine than friends of her’s down on the Front Range. Simson hears stories from her friends of how teachers elsewhere are less prepared or familiar with remote education, and how students don’t have the same opportunities the Summit School District provides, such as the One2World program that provides an electronic device to every student to access their schoolwork.
But just because the infrastructure is there doesn’t mean it hasn’t had its share of hurdles. Simson said students like her who are taking International Baccalaureate courses are facing uncertainty as the IB exams they’ve studied two years for have been canceled.
Summit High School ninth grader David Reid said he feels kids lack a motivation right now to complete work or attend remote classes, though the district’s programs have given him a chance to get ahead in chemistry classes and he’s liked how his teachers have used Zoom meetings. He said he completes his work early each day, but notices a lot of kids skimping out on sessions.
Wagner’s health class has changed from teaching traditional topics like traumatic brain injuries to lessons on viruses and diseases like COVID-19.
Snowy Peaks School eighth grader Miles Vaille was halfway into completing his Rube Goldberg machine before the quarantine. With the project on hold, his science class has changed to questions about Rube Goldberg sent out via Google Classroom. He’s also bummed he’s not able to make rings out of copper pipe and steel in one of his hands-on classes.
Instead, he goes out to the family shed and works on an eagle carpentry project for his brother, Summit High senior Jeremiah, who recently became an Eagle Scout. Though this experience has been fun, he says he misses his teachers.
“If I could go back to school on Monday, I would,” Miles said.
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