In-person learning at AES and ACS provides hope for safe in-person learning


Image courtesy of Chloe Axelman

Students sit outside at Aspen Community School during in-person learning on a recent morning.

This fall, teachers and students at Aspen Elementary and Community Schools successfully returned to classrooms, which shows hope for safe in-person learning in the future.

Both schools shifted from the hybrid model, which includes remote and in-person learning, to being fully in person earlier this fall, and were able to maintain low numbers of Covid-19 cases among students and teachers with safety protocols like social distancing and masks, a pod system where students are in small groups, upgrading ventilation systems, and plastic separators on desks. Although all ASD schools recently shifted to remote learning until December 4th due to rising cases from social gatherings, in-person learning was successful throughout the fall.

Margaret Romero, a kindergarten teacher at ACS, has made shifts in her classroom, like separate materials like crayons or markers, rearranging the room to have more space, and keeping students far apart with reminders like “airplane arms” or “six feet!”. Romero feels that students have been adaptable to the plan even though it is their first year being in school, and have been able to stay safe.

“I feel like we’ve been able to keep the joy in school,” Romero said. “It’s a very joyous place, and instead of giving high fives and hugs we’re giving air fives and air hugs.”

This experience of being in the classroom is important for kids who are younger. Sara Lowe, the vice principal of AES, feels that in-person learning has been a positive experience for elementary students.

“Especially for little kids, it’s really hard for them to stay focused on the computer for a long period of time, so this is way better for sure,” Lowe said.

Lowe also feels that the pod system has been successful during in-person learning and has kept students safe.

“I do get some kids saying I wish I could play with my friends in other classrooms, due to the spread we’re not allowed to do that right now, but they’re happy enough playing with the kids in their own class,” Lowe said.

Susan Marolt, the president of the ASD Board of Education, said that school leaders, administration, and teachers listened to community concerns when creating this plan.

“We were hearing a lot from parents that just for social-emotional purposes, as well as how [students] are learning academically, they really wanted their kids in school in person,” Marolt said. “We heard a lot from teachers about their concerns and how we were going to keep everyone safe, and so we’ve really tried to listen to those and respond to those and put in place as many safety we can,”

“It’s so important for them to have that relationship with their teachers, and younger kids have a much harder time with online learning”, Marolt said.”We just were trying to create all of the pieces so that our teachers felt safe, and our parents felt safe about sending their parents.”

Mia Mottier, a 7th grade student at ACS, feels happy about being in person. “I think we’re really lucky because we get to see our friends, it’s a really hard time right now and we’re really lucky,” Mottier said.

The plan will continue to change in the future, with feedback from the community and a main focus on the safety of teachers, students, and families.

“I think kids and parents are definitely happy and I think teachers are feeling fairly comfortable with the safety features that we put in place,” Marolt said. “So we just keep listening and adjusting. There’s not really a good answer that leads to the perfect solution at this point so we’re still working on it.”