Roaring Fork Schools to open with distance learning in light of latest surge in new coronavirus cases

John Stroud/Glenwood Springs Post Independent
Roaring Fork Schools

Roaring Fork Schools will begin the new school year using what it says will be an “improved” distance learning model Aug. 17 through Sept. 21, while evaluating how to proceed for the rest of the fall semester.

“This decision is based on the current high risk level to public health in our communities due to the COVID pandemic, as well as our board-approved Back-to-School Guiding Principles that prioritize student, staff, and community health, safety, and wellbeing above all else,” the district announced in a statement issued Friday evening.

“While we all want to return to face-to-face instruction, because we know it’s best for student learning and deeper relationships, choosing to do so while COVID cases are on the rise would put our entire community at risk,” according to the statement issued via Facebook and posted to the district’s website.

The Roaring Fork District includes public schools in Glenwood Springs, Carbondale and Basalt.

The full announcement can be found here, including a forum to share comments and provide feedback.

The Roaring Fork District school board is also set to meet via video conference at 2 p.m. Wednesday, July 29 to discuss the plan and take public comments.

“We know that people will have different reactions to this news, including relief, disappointment, and many emotions in between,” according to the statement. “Like all of you, we feel immense sadness that our students will not start the year in school classrooms.” By beginning the year using a distance learning model open the school year and to help us transition back to face-to-face learning when it’s safe to do so.

How will distance learning look? 

The new distance learning model will be significantly different from the crisis-response version that was used when schools closed throughout Colorado just before spring break in March.

“We heard from 1,067 students, parents and staff last spring about how we should improve distance learning if we had to use that model this year. Based on this feedback, our teams worked over the summer to improve our distance learning model,” according to the district’s announcement.

The distance learning model for the new school year is designed to offer: 

  • More synchronous or “live” classes on Google Meet;
  • More accountability for student learning;
  • New digital tools for early elementary; 
  • Enhanced two-way communication with students and families;
  • More home internet access options for families; and
  • More support for families and students to learn how to use district tools and technology and support students in distance learning.

Learn more about the model here.

The new school year is to begin with a week of required orientation starting Monday, Aug. 17 when students and families are to connect with their crews, check out Chromebooks, and receive training on the various platforms that will be used to deliver instruction.

Regular daily schedules and live online classes are to begin Aug. 24.

Ross Montessori opts for classroom model

The state charter Ross Montessori School in Carbondale also announced to parents and students Friday that it plans to start the new school year on Aug. 17 with in-school face-to-face learning, but with a “learn-from-home” model for those who choose that option.

Similar to the charter Two Rivers Community School in Glenwood Springs, Ross will have a “soft start” for the first week before transitioning to full-time school days and weeks.

Principal Sonya Hemmen wrote in a letter to parents that the school will have a virtual town hall within the next few weeks to answer questions.

Two Rivers, along with St. Stephens Catholic School and Ambleside at Skylark, also announced that they plan to start the new school year Aug. 17 with in-person classes.