AES reopening sparks hope for the reopening of AMS, AHS


Photo by Emily Kinney

Fourth grade teacher Katie Fox leads her class in a virtual lesson during a Wednesday morning virtual Circle Up.

The Google Meets alert pings as students “enter” Katie Fox’s fourth-grade virtual classroom on Wednesday, October 14th. Some students are joining from their bedrooms or kitchens, while others tune in from the Aspen Youth Center where supervision for online learning is taking place. Each student shares a little bit about what is going on in their lives during “Connection Time,” then settles in to listen to a short story. The class then discusses this story, with the students inviting one another to speak, before saying goodbye. A form of classroom community can be felt, even through the screen. This is because students are still engaging with one another and Mrs. Fox, demonstrating what hybrid learning has looked like for AES students this year.

With AMS and AHS reopening next week, the staff, parents, and students at AES are sharing what to expect as the ASD community returns partially to campus after a seven month closure due to Coronavirus. This half online, half in person approach is called hybrid learning.

Katie Fox is a fourth-grade teacher at AES. Though figuring out teaching logistics was initially daunting, she feels that hybrid learning is now going well.

“[Hybrid learning] has been really fun. At first, though, there was a large learning curve, and at the very beginning, [the teachers] were all kind of apprehensive and nervous about what [hybrid learning] would look like,” Fox said.

Jim Anderson is the father of a kindergartener at AES. He was also initially unsure about hybrid learning but chose to send his daughter back to school when AES outlined the safety protocols that would be in place to keep students safe.
“The fact that [the district] is going out of their way to be conscientious [about safety], to be organized, and attempt [hybird learning] in the best possible way, gave me a lot of confidence in sending my kids back, and [my daughter’s] overall experience has since been positive,” Anderson said.

Community participation in things like wearing masks and social distancing has been crucial to mitigating the Coronavirus’s impact on Aspen. Anderson points out that these guidelines like these are also in place in the elementary school.

“As long as [the students] can adhere to the rules that have been set up within [ASD] and that the school is still able to make guidelines that they feel will keep the students safe, I think [the students] are in good hands,” Anderson said.

Assistant Superintendent Tharyn Mulbury agrees with Anderson that following the protocols in place is the best way to keep students safe while attending ASD.

“If there’s anything I can say to anybody about being nervous [about returning to school], it’s to follow the [Pitkin County] Five C’s of Containment. We have that kind of risk mitigation, and it really lowers the possibility of you catching COVID-19,” Mulberry said.

AES students report feeling safe at school, and the response to hybrid learning is mostly positive. Students in Fox’s fourth-grade class enjoy getting to see their classmates on days where they are in school, but cite computer troubles as one of the biggest challenges they face when at home. Most students said that hybrid is not as fun as being in the classroom all the time, but, regardless, are still continuing to work hard in their studies.

Hailey Ward is a third grader at AES. She feels that hybrid learning is a much better alternative to the online school model of the spring.

“I like [being in person] because with at home learning, you have to learn without a teacher, and you’re just doing the work, but at school, you’re actually learning the work and how to do it better,” Ward said.

As AMS and AHS move towards returning, Anderson wants to give credit where credit is due: to the teachers making hybrid learning a possibility.

“I just want to give a shout out to the teachers. I have long known that this school district is a special place, and I really appreciate the passion and care that the teachers show in this community; we could not have our amazing schools without amazing teachers,” Anderson said.