Though the return to school is often nerve-racking for students, teachers and parents, this year’s back-to-school jitters are of a different breed. Because this year, there are more questions than there are answers.
Colorado Mountain College (CMC) started the fall semester on Monday; Lake County School District (LCSD) will return to school next week. Both are utilizing a hybrid approach to in-person learning, plans that minimize the density of students in a classroom at one time through staggered schedules and virtual learning options.
CMC is offering three types of courses: “in-person,” “flex,” and “online anytime.” Hands-on courses like welding and culinary arts will be carried out in-person while book-based courses will, for the most part, be offered virtually with optional face-to-face components.
LCSD is offering two enrollment options: in-person schooling (at 50% capacity on alternating days) and virtual learning.
Both academic institutions had to balance competing interests when they created these learning plans — an unimaginably tough job.
One competing interest is the health and safety of staff, students and the community as a whole. As centers of human connection, CMC and LCSD hold offshoot connections to thousands more people in Lake County through households, jobs and personal relationships.
Another interest is the need to effectively educate students during the pandemic, to minimize academic, social and emotional learning loss. For younger students, who rely on school for psychological development, in-person instruction is particularly important.
The effect of staggered school days and virtual learning on parents is another competing interest. The repercussions of at-home learning on family life and the economy will continue to evolve as the academic year unfolds.
When one takes time to look at these competing interests, it becomes clear how many different roles we expect public schools to fill in society.
CMC’s and LCSD’s contribution to Lake County go far beyond “academic” instruction. They offer childcare, nutritious food, social relationships, physical activity, mental health counseling, safe and warm buildings, exposure to multiple languages, medical care, social workers, access to technology, and so much more. And for that, we should all be grateful.
It is likely that local learning plans will change again, and again, before the end of 2020. The Herald takes comfort in knowing that the dedication of the people implementing them — the custodians, educators, cooks and administrators — is a constant.