Despite a ‘blizzard,’ all goes well for Aspen Elementary on Tuesday as kids return to classroom |

Despite a ‘blizzard,’ all goes well for Aspen Elementary on Tuesday as kids return to classroom

Tuesday marked the first day back in a physical classroom for Aspen Elementary School students since March, before the coronavirus pandemic brought the world to a halt. And, in true mountain town fashion, that day brought with it a freak September snowstorm as the kids were trying to return home.

“I am frozen solid. We just had a carpool line for pick up and it was a full on blizzard, the likes of which I haven’t seen in a while,” AES Principal Chris Basten said late Tuesday afternoon. “It was the perfect apocalyptic ending, but to what was otherwise a pretty awesome day.”

Students began arriving on the Aspen School District campus around 8 a.m. Tuesday for their first in-person classes since March 11. A major worry for Basten was dealing with the morning traffic as kids were being dropped off, but all went as well as possible in getting students to their respective cohorts without much overlap. A “flex start” was in place, meaning a vague 9 a.m. start for classes to allow as much time as possible for morning transport.

AES students are divided into two cohorts this fall, one attending classes Mondays and Tuesdays, and the other Thursdays and Fridays. Basten didn’t have an official head count Tuesday, but said there should have been a little more than 200 students on campus, roughly half of the AES enrollment for this school year.

“It could not have gone more smoothly in the morning. It was really great,” Basten said. “Teachers are in their element when they are teaching kids. Even though there was certainly a fair amount of anxiety and concern leading up to what today would look like, it seemed like once the kids arrived everything just kind of flowed automatically.”

While there may have been more than 200 students on campus Tuesday, they were divided into those cohorts of about 10 students each and kept separate. This even includes lunchtime, as the cafeteria remains closed. The cohorts not attending in-person classes Tuesday were able to take part virtually.

Without middle and high school students on campus yet, the AES students were able to utilize the entire block, with third graders using the middle school and fourth graders using the high school. Many teachers took their classes outside when the weather allowed.

“The story of the day from my lens was just seeing our amazing teachers connecting with their students for the first time since March for in-person learning,” Basten said. “I visited many of the classrooms and just found there to be a lot of excitement in the air and positivity. The kids were so glad to be back at school.”

There won’t be any in-person learning Wednesdays, a day dedicated to online-only specials like music and art, as well as a day for teachers to plan and for the schools to be deep cleaned between cohorts. Beginning Thursday, the second group of cohorts will come to campus for their first in-person classes, essentially Day 1, Take 2 for the teachers and staff.

“It’s a different group and they are going to provide their own energy and excitement and I’m looking forward to seeing all their smiling faces and all their parents, as well,” Basten said. “I was really, really happy with how the day had gone. The carpool line at the end of the day was a real challenge with the blizzard. It was just terrible conditions, but we got everybody safely where they needed to be.”

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