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Aspen schools share educational bounty

Janet Urquhart
The Aspen Times
Aspen CO Colorado
Janet Urquhart The Aspen Times
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ASPEN – Youngsters in South Dakota are about to get an educational boost from Aspen.

Instructional materials that have been shelved at Aspen schools in favor of newer versions were loaded into a trailer Thursday, bound for schools in South Dakota, where students and teachers are accustomed to doing with far less than their counterparts in Aspen.

The mission is the brainchild of Aspen Elementary School physical-education teacher Jared Thompson, who hitched the trailer to his pickup truck and was prepared to start driving north late Thursday afternoon.

Thompson and his wife, a teacher in Basalt, were in Woonsocket, S.D., in November, where Thompson was visiting an old friend and his wife, who are both teachers there.

When the foursome of educators began chatting about their teaching experiences, it quickly dawned on Thompson and his wife that their hometown schools are vastly better equipped than those in Woonsocket. The disparity, Thompson said, is “incredible.”

With the blessing of school administrators, staffers at Aspen schools have since cleaned house, packing up curriculums that include reading materials, workbooks and lesson plans – all things that the Thompsons’ friends in South Dakota do without. Sixteen old computers were packed up, too, bound for schools that have none.

“It’s stuff that’s been sitting in storage. We tend to be pack rats,” Thompson said.

Thompson even threw in a bag of basketballs because the physical-education program in Woonsocket has only dodgeballs.

A local book drive produced some 3,000 books that were boxed for shipment, as well, to stock a school that has little on its library shelves. Area families culled their own collections, bringing in crates of fun-to-read books for youngsters, Thompson said.

Because rural South Dakota schools are small, the shipment from Aspen is enough to provide certain materials to several schools, he said. They’ll receive elementary-level curriculum materials in math and reading, plus items from Aspen Middle School and possibly old Aspen High textbooks. Thompson was headed to the high school to check before his departure.

Though Thompson is driving his personal vehicle to South Dakota, the elementary school helped chip in for the cost of gas and the U-Haul rental, he said.

Now, Thompson is wondering how to broaden the connection between the haves and have-nots of the education world.

“There are schools everywhere that are like ours or like theirs,” he said. “We’ve been talking about how to get something started, hooking up schools that have with schools that don’t have because there are schools on both sides of the coin.”

janet@aspentimes.com


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