by Marissa Lorenz
West Grand students entered the second quarter of the 2020-21 school year this week with a little more certainty and continuity than they had at the beginning of the year.
When students returned to school in August after not attending in-person classes since March, District Superintendent Dr. Darrin Peppard reported that about 20% of students and families had chosen to enroll through the district’s new online partner, Colorado Digital Learning Solutions (CDLS), the state-supported supplemental online program.
The numbers were closely aligned with what was being reported across Colorado at the time, a considerable increase from the previous average of 2.3% of total preschool-12th grade public school students enrolled in online schools, according to Bill Kottenstette, Executive Director of the Colorado Department of Education’s (CDE) Schools of Choice Office.
Many online students return to in-person learning
However, going into the second quarter, when students cannot switch back and forth between in-person and online learning until the end of the semester, almost half of those students find themselves back in the classroom.
“We have a current enrollment of 402 students, over 360 of which are fully attending in-person classes,” explains Peppard. “In our CDLS offerings, we have 22 K-5 students and 12 middle school students. The high school has 34 students taking at least one course through CDLS, with only a few being fully online.
“Over the course of the past several weeks, many of our online students and their parents have made the choice to return to in-person classes. This is a combination of frustrations with an online platform, how online courses differ greatly from in-person, and the desire to have peer interaction.”
The Superintendent extols the advantages of being a small district and recognizes the unknowns with the new online platform as being among the biggest challenges in going back to school in this COVID-19 year.
“Strengths would certainly be our staffulty and their work to support not only the academic learning but the social-emotional needs of the students,” he offers. “The joy we still see daily in the eyes of teachers and students alike shows the love and care our staffulty has for the community. A tremendous amount of work and planning was put in this past summer to be ready for all situations that might come our way.
“While there is no fault to be placed,” Peppard continues, “CDLS was inundated with registration requests beyond their expectations, which led to them having to hire many more teachers than expected. This gave West Grand the opportunity to use [an option incorporating its own teachers] which came with its own challenges.
“As a district, we’ve learned a great deal during this time and, while we haven’t been perfect, we feel the response has been successful. Ultimately, we will all be better at what we do for this experience but are eager to return to the most normal possible.”
Homecoming to happen at High School
One of those things that represent a return to normalcy is next week’s celebration of Homecoming at West Grand High School, an event whose occurrence was uncertain until recently.
While there will be no Homecoming dance, the school will host dress up days throughout the week (Dress Up vs Dress Down, Frat vs Sorority, Young vs Old, and Class Colors), a parade on Thursday, a Powder Puff football game and a movie on Thursday evening, and the Homecoming football game Friday night against SOROCO.
Senior Football and Spirit players will be recognized during the halftime of the football game. Volleyball players will not be recognized at this time but will be recognized during their season, according to Athletic Director Cori Kassib.
A Spirit choreography camp will be held on Saturday, November 7, as well. The Cheer team, made up of 15 girls, will learn new dances and routines with a virtual coach due to COVID impacts.
K-8 continues focus on growth During the 2nd quarter the K-8 staffulty and students will be focused on continuing to learn and grow, according to K-8 Principal Jack Daly.
“Teachers are doing many activities to help accomplish this, including virtual field trips, presentations, project learning, and blended learning using the new technology that the district obtained this year,” Daly details.
“During the second quarter, the Middle School will be finishing the current football season, having basketball open gyms, and participating in 5th Day activities.”
East Troublesome Fire affects District
With over 193,000 acres having burned in the past 10 days in Grand County’s East Troublesome fire, starting just east of the Big Horn Park subdivision and prompting evacuations and evacuation preparedness across the county, it makes sense that staff and students have been affected in various ways. West Grand Schools are recognizing and offering support to both.
“The impact of the East troublesome Fire has been significant for both students and staffulty,” notes Daly. “Our community and school has been very supportive of the people impacted by the fire and has offered whatever resources that we have available. Our teachers, school counselors, and staffulty are available for social-emotional support. In addition, Mind Springs and Heart Centered Counseling is available to help support our school.”
“Grand County is an amazing community that has demonstrated their love and compassion for each other,” adds High School Principal Liz Bauer. “The county has provided many resources: outreach, donations, volunteers…” and counseling to name a few.”
For more information on West Grand events, go to wgsd.us.