What day care centers and preschool looks like during COVID-19.

Colorado’s youngest learners have proven among the most adaptable to the restrictions imposed by the COVID-19 pandemic.

Across the county, school districts, private schools and charter schools have found safe and innovative ways to connect preschoolers with learning, and the students have responded with enthusiasm, flexibility and dynamism. They’ve enthusiastically donned masks, they’ve adapted to cohort learning on-site and they’ve taken to online curriculum with curiosity and smiles.

In other words, preschoolers are meeting the challenges of learning in a new world, one turned upside down by an unprecedented health crisis.

“Our preschoolers are doing a great job wearing their masks and taking the cues from our staff, who are using a multitude of creative strategies to keep learning lively while socially distant,” said Diane Lauer, Assistant Superintendent of Priority Programs and Academic Support for the St. Vrain School District. Lauer oversees early childhood education, early literacy, Title I and professional development programs for the district. “It is so wonderful to have our children back in our preschool classrooms.”

Lauer’s assessment echoes feedback from other districts and schools across Boulder County and across Colorado. School districts across the metro area welcomed back students for in-person learning in the fall, and continued to supplement in-class curriculum with a wide array of online instruction options. While every week brings new updates in terms of the number of reported COVID-19 cases and the status of school openings, officials say students have found different ways to learn, grow and achieve under the new restrictions.

That goes for high school, middle and elementary school students, as well as preschoolers. Officials say the youngest students have been just as apt to follow new models as their older peers. Similarly, preschool teachers are being just as stringent about following health guidelines as their colleagues in different levels.

“We’re following careful and specific safety guidelines at all levels in the Boulder Valley School District,” said Patricia Ammann, Early Childhood Education Coordinator for BVSD. Ammann said that preschool class sizes have been cut by half, to 8 students in a single classroom, and that students revolve between a maximum of two days of in-person learning per week and online learning the rest of the week. “When they’re in class, the children are wearing masks. We’ve been surprised to how ready the children are to put on their masks and keep their masks on. All the toys are cleaned between the groups; one cohort’s materials are cleaned before the next one shows up.”

Of course, every young student has their own response to the new conditions, but school officials point out that for the most part, preschoolers have mirrored older students in their ability to adjust to new conditions. Whether it’s shifting learning exercises to outdoor settings when possible or finding new ways to complete a lesson online, students are meeting the demands of the moment.

Parents, too, are adjusting to a new reality that can feel unfamiliar and challenging. Ammann said that parents have the opportunity to drop in to online learning during synchronous sessions, and pointed out that those parents who are concerned about their students’ safety can opt for a fully remote learning structure.

“They can decide when they’re going to join us and have a seat in the session,” she said. “In addition to the synchronous activities, we have preschool community liaisons who are in touch individually. There’s a lot of individual communication going on with parents and students.”

In other words, preschoolers have been able to succeed across Boulder County largely due to the investment and attention of educators at all levels, from individual teachers to administrators to private school staff. As a global pandemic forces us all to rethink how we approach everyday life, our young learners are proving to be flexible, intelligent and capable.

By Adam Goldstein, Raised in the Rockies