Summer Advantage program canceled for schools in valley
A summer-school program that can help younger elementary students in Roaring Fork schools avoid the summer slide between grades will not happen this year due to concerns about reopening school buildings too soon.
The Roaring Fork School District and Summit 54, which sponsors the Summer Advantage USA program in Glenwood Springs, Carbondale and Basalt, jointly announced Tuesday that the program is canceled for this summer due to the COVID-19 outbreak.
“This was a difficult decision made in the interest of the health and safety of our students, staff and community, but we appreciate that many families will be disappointed at the lack of programming this summer,” Roaring Fork Schools Superintendent Rob Stein said in a news release.
“We really value our partnership with Summit 54 and Summer Advantage and look forward to offering the program next summer when conditions allow.”
The decision removes a free summer programming option that can help students kindergarten through fourth grade play catch-up for five weeks in late June and July if they’ve fallen behind during the regular school year.
That need could be even more pronounced this year, given difficulties for some students and families to fully participate in online distance learning that went into effect after the pandemic response in Colorado forced schools to be closed for the remainder of the school year.
Summer Advantage typically serves about 550 students and employs 110 staff members each summer, including several district teachers who rely on it for supplemental summer employment.
The programs take place at Glenwood Springs, Crystal River and Basalt Elementary schools, providing academic support and enrichment, hands-on learning projects, physical fitness activities and Friday field trips, plus two meals a day.
“Summit 54 is disappointed that our partnership with the Roaring Fork School District and Summer Advantage USA will not be able to provide the Summer Advantage program to our scholars this summer,” Terri Caine, co-founder of Summit 54, said, explaining that the health of students and staff takes precedence right now.
“The large program size increases risk, and the three-way partnership felt that the health and safety of our scholars, educators, support staff, parents and other family members required that we cancel the program for 2020,” Caine said in the release. “Summit 54 eagerly looks forward to sponsoring this important program again in 2021.”
The decision comes as the school district rolled out a phased plan to reopen school facilities to outside user groups following the COVID-19 closures.
While the district had hoped that could start in June, the decision was made to keep buildings closed until at least July, except for licensed child care programs.
“It still remains unknown whether schools will be able to resume in-person learning in the fall,” the district wrote in a parent newsletter sent out Tuesday. “At the same time, the state has allowed the safe reopening of licensed child care facilities and some other public spaces with specific guidelines.”
Under those guidelines, the district has decided to allow facility use by licensed child care programs, under the following circumstances, according to the newsletter article:
Licensed child care programs can only use district facilities that are physically separated from the main school buildings and office buildings at this time;
Programs must be self-supporting; district staff will not be asked to provide custodial, transportation, or food services for these programs. No district staff will be available to support these programs;
Licensed child care programs must meet the RFSD conditions and criteria for facility use outlined here; and
Business plans must be reviewed and/or approved by the county in which any programs will be operating.
All district school and office buildings will remain closed through June, and there will be no district-sponsored programming or facility use by non-licensed child care programs, the district has also determined.
As for outdoor recreation facilities and ball fields, the district is working with the parks and recreation departments in each of its municipalities to determine the appropriate use. Many town recreation programs rely on school facilities for summer youth and adult sports leagues.
“We know that this news is disappointing to many in our community,” the district said in the newsletter. “While we want to support the economic recovery in our community, we must put the safety of our students, staff and the broader community first. We will continue to monitor to determine whether more use of district facilities might be allowable later in the summer.”
A “Roadmap to Reopening” school buildings to outside users was also presented to the RFSD school board last week. It outlines a three-phase approach over a three-month span in which the district could begin allowing groups of 10 one month, increasing to 25 the next month, and 50 by the third month, depending on public health guidelines at the time.
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Another Aspen school board meeting was held Monday, and another teacher expressed dissatisfaction with the board and administration over its handling of the pandemic.