After an unprecedented year, local schools are excited to welcome students back to the classrooms
The coronavirus pandemic disrupted the traditional learning environment, with many schools in and around Boulder County adopting hybrid and distance learning models. Now, students and parents in the area are preparing for a more traditional back-to-school season. The upcoming 2021-2022 school year may not mean “back to normal” per se, but local districts and private schools are excited to welcome students back, and do so in an in-person learning environment – with, of course, precautions in place.
School districts are continuing to work closely with local health officials, and some details about the upcoming academic year are still being ironed out as the evolving nature of COVID requires flexibility.
For instance, it’s likely masks will be optional for all students in the Boulder Valley School District this fall, but the district, as of press time, was awaiting additional public health guidance before making a final decision.
Still, families should feel comfortable sending their children to school wearing masks if that’s what they’re most comfortable with, says Stephanie Faren, BVSD’s health services director.
“They won’t be the only ones there with masks,” she says.
As the start of a new school year approaches, here’s a brief look at a few local districts and private schools in the region, and how you can set your child up for success in the new year:
Keeping Students Safe
Throughout the area, school leaders are taking a number of steps to help ease this unprecedented transition and they’ll be consistently communicating public health safety basics, like the importance of hand washing and keeping children home if they’re sick.
In addition to ventilation and cleaning practices that have been established, schools are also establishing protocols to keep students and employees healthy and safe.
In St. Vrain Valley School District, there will be directional arrows in elementary, middle and high school hallways to keep traffic flowing and dismissal times will be staggered to help maintain social distancing. The state of Colorado and Boulder County have updated COVID-19 health orders, removing masking requirements in schools. In accordance with this, masks won’t be required in SVVSD schools or buildings, regardless of vaccination status. However, masks are strongly encouraged for anyone who hasn’t been vaccinated any students and employees may continue to wear masks at their own discretion. Also, students will attend electives on a regular schedule, but there will be less sharing of equipment and materials, according to the district.
BVSD will be encouraging, but not requiring, parents to report their children’s vaccination status to assist with quarantines, if necessary.
At Dawson School, vaccinations are not currently mandated, although the school highly encourages vaccination for those who can. Strategies for ensuring another safe and successful in-person school year include making use of the 107-acre campus to decrease density.
At Prospect Ridge Academy, and as of July 12, face coverings are no longer required in the school building but are encouraged for unvaccinated individuals. Vaccinations for everyone 12 years and older are encouraged, but not required.
September School will return to a more typical school experience this fall. As always, class sizes are small and the private Boulder school has flexibility.
As schools are adopting plans keeping public health guidance in mind and details haven’t been firmed up as of press time.
Be sure to check with your child’s school directly for up-to-date-information about back-to-school policies or follow local school district updates at:
Tips for Preparing for the School Year
To help best prepare your student for the upcoming school year, one of the best things you can do is establish a routine, says George P. Moore, Head of School at Dawson.
Given the many disruptions to our regular educational and social routines and expectations, over the last 18 months, mental and emotional health are even more critical foundations for meaningful learning, Moore says.
“A good routine that includes sleep, nutrition, structure, and healthy, positive relationships, therefore, should be priorities for all of us as we begin a new school year,” he says.
Fostering Social-Emotional Learning at September School
September School, a private school in Boulder that fosters diversity and inclusion, views safety and health more broadly than simply preventing an outbreak of COVID at school, says Kelly Molinet, head of school.
“September School approaches the education of adolescents holistically: We value and support their mental and emotional health as highly as we do their academic growth,” she says.
To help foster social-emotional learning, the school has a licensed therapist as well as a cohort of therapy interns from Naropa University who support students as they explore emotional and mental health, coping with stress, and navigating adolescents.
“Our teachers are trained in trauma-informed care and they seek to educate the whole child: body, mind and spirit,” Molinet says.
The school does lots of movement, community building, and approaches discipline from a restorative justice perspective to support the development of our students.
“And if it’s sunny outside, we take a walk or play together,” Molinet says.
What’s New at Schools
The September School is launching a middle school and will be welcoming 6th, 7th and 8th graders. The school is also expanding its arts curriculum with a new digital art program and will have Visiting Artists in Residence.
At St. Vrain, the third Pathways in Technology Early College High School (P-TECH) program will open this fall. Students enrolled in RaptorTECH at Silver Creek High School earn an Associate of Applied Science (AAS) degree in cybersecurity from Front Range Community College and receive significant mentorship and internship support from industry partners including Cisco, Comcast, PEAK Resources, and Seagate Technologies. Students enroll in 9th grade and complete the program in four to six years. They have mentorship and internship opportunities which can give them a headstart in their careers. Skyline High School and Frederick High School also offer P-TECH programs to students.
Despite a pandemic, Dawson was able to open its new Dawson Center for Innovation last November. The state-of-the-art, 25,000 square-foot facility houses maker spaces, a woodshop, a metalshop, classrooms and flexible creative spaces.
“We are excited to have every inch humming this year, supporting just what the building was designed to do: facilitate and support the creative inspiration of every student on campus,” Moore says.
By Brittany Anas for Raised in the Rockies