Aspen High School hopes to have updated events calendar in place by May amid coronavirus shutdown |

Aspen High School hopes to have updated events calendar in place by May amid coronavirus shutdown

Aspen High School
Aspen Times file photo

While most of the country remains in limbo because of the ongoing coronavirus pandemic, Aspen High School continues to move ahead with planning for the remainder of its academic semester.

The next month typically is a busy time for seniors, who usually have big events like prom and graduation to look forward to. As of Thursday, AHS principal Tharyn Mulberry said the future of those events was still being determined.

“We are hoping to have an end-of-year calendar completed by May 1,” Mulberry said. “Right now we don’t know if we’ll still be closed or not, but we’ll have both the alternative for all of the senior week activities and we’ll have regular senior week activities if we’re allowed to be open.”

Colorado schools are closed through at least April 30, per Gov. Jared Polis, with some districts having already closed their doors permanently for the rest of the school year. Mulberry said the Aspen School District is still holding out some hope of returning to the classroom this spring, although it looks unlikely.

The remainder of the school year’s calendar should be somewhat solidified in the coming weeks. On Tuesday, more than 100 members of the senior class met online to discuss the coming month, while a similar “virtual breakfast” was held for parents Wednesday. Mulberry said so far 22 seniors and 20 parents have volunteered to be part of focus groups to determine the viability of these bigger events.

Suggestions so far include holding prom in the summer — possibly in hazmat suits — and hosting a drive-in movie type of graduation, should the traditional events have to be canceled because of COVID-19 concerns.

Even with so much uncertainty and without a physical classroom, AHS students are moving forward with their education thanks to a distance-learning initiative launched earlier this month.

“We’ve really hit our stride. We had our own version of ‘flattening the curve’ with so much to ramp up to get this. I think we are starting to get our footing a little bit with it, but just know obviously our preference is to have all these kids in classes,” Mulberry said. “I can definitely speak for the staff at the high school — they are definitely rising to meet the expectations of the kids and the parents at this point.”

AHS has tweaked its grading system as well, giving students the option of pass/fail instead of normal letter grades. Mulberry said the pass/fail option is good for students who have already been accepted into college; the pass/fail option doesn’t impact a student’s grade-point average.

The school is asking students to pick one or the other, however, meaning they can’t get a letter grade in one class and pass/fail in another.

“Why we chose to go to both is I had junior and sophomore students who definitely wanted a grade and I had seniors who wanted pass/fail,” Mulberry said. “It was all over the map. There are multiple kids who wanted both, and we didn’t see any reason why we couldn’t do both. I’ll let you know what the unintended consequences are in a year, but right now it seems like a good play.”

Of note, the school district is moving ahead with finding a new high school principal for the 2020-21 school year, saying it hopes to have a candidate selected by mid-May. Mulberry was recently named the district’s new assistant superintendent, alongside incoming superintendent David Baugh. They are scheduled to begin in their new roles July 1.

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