Board of Education approves 2021-22 calendar, tunes in to HyFlex program |

Board of Education approves 2021-22 calendar, tunes in to HyFlex program

With Aspen’s early release days out, new program could offer needed flexibility

Aspen Elementary School.

Approving later start times for older students and the elimination of early-release Wednesdays, the Aspen School District Board of Education gave a unanimous thumbs up to changes to the 2021-22 academic calendar at Tuesday night’s meeting.

The calendar vote was postponed several times to give district administrators planning the calendar more time to seek community feedback on the proposed changes, which come with an extensive list of pros and cons for students, families, teachers and other stakeholders.

“We think we’ve addressed that through really hard listening over the past six weeks,” Superintendent David Baugh said during a calendar update Tuesday evening.

Middle school and high school students will start school at 8:45 a.m. and end at 3:45 p.m. daily; elementary school students will start at 8 a.m. and end at 3 p.m. Educational research supports later start times for older students, and a transportation shortage makes the split schedule necessary. The Cottage Preschool will open from 7:30 a.m. to 4 p.m. daily. There will be no early release Wednesdays, in part to add more classroom time to address educational gaps caused by pandemic-related learning interruptions.

Dedicated professional development days, work days and assessment days have been rebranded as more flexible “student release days” that allow each building to decide how best to use days when teachers come to work but students do not have class. Instructional leadership teams of teachers and administrators will assist with major decisions on a building-by-building basis.

“We think this is a much more sound calendar than previously proposed,” Baugh said.

A potential “HyFlex” flexible-learning program could help alleviate some concerns about how the elimination of early-release days would impact student extracurriculars, Baugh noted during his superintendent update.

The program would implement the asynchronous and remote learning tools developed during the pandemic to give students more flexibility to participate in sports, internships and other extracurriculars during the school day. HyFlex learning could be catered to each student’s needs and would not be limited to one set-in-stone schedule.

“‘What we’re trying to do is really support our kids where they are,” Baugh said.

Some students might leave after lunch to train on the slopes, making up that class time later that evening online; another student could set aside whole days for internships and recover missed instruction on nights and weekends, according to sample schedules Baugh presented as potential iterations of the program.

There also could be remote-learning accommodations for students who are traveling for competitions and options for students to take online classes from other education providers for courses that aren’t offered in person in the district.

District administrators are still fine-tuning the details of the HyFlex program and will “put up the guardrails” June 1 to articulate details about eligibility, structure, timing, support and reasoning behind the program, Baugh said.

“The HyFlex is exciting, and I’m happy to see us find something from COVID that we can see in a really positive, innovative thing,” board member Susan Marolt said. “I just want to make sure we really concentrate on what’s best for kids and what’s best for kids learning, and for all kids. … I’m looking forward to the parameters and the guidelines about how specifically it’s going to work for all students in all situations.”

The board also was receptive to calendar discussions after weeks-long calendar revision and feedback process that helped garnered goodwill among Marolt and board member Dwayne Romero, who had previously expressed concerns about lack of consensus on the changes.

“I would like to also add an appreciation for the process over the last five or six weeks and the attitude of leadership and openness and the willingness to broaden the conversation,” Romero said. “I think that’s very powerful, I think it’s a real great step towards building trust and confidence within the organization. … It’s not 100% (consensus), we know that, but that’s also a key element of leadership to continue those conversations, to continue to move forward together, modify and improve.”

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