Aspen Times editorial: After challenging year, pandemic provide teachable moment for Aspen School District community
All was not lost academically during the global pandemic: Students at Aspen public schools learned all sorts of things that weren’t part of the curriculum.
They got firsthand, real-life experience with such words and terms as “quarantine,” “isolation,” “contact tracing” and “nasal swabs.”
In the field of science, they learned about epidemiology, antibodies, microbes, vaccinations, COVID-19 tests and outbreaks.
There was much math involved, as well. They become familiar with colored pie charts and graphs. They learned about flattening the curve and exponential growth. More advanced math work included learning about virus variables, such as how long it takes for signs of COVID-19 to appear and how long one must quarantine or isolate if exposed to someone asymptomatic who also tested positive for the virus.
The pandemic taught them also about history, for how many 10-year-olds today know about the Spanish Flu compared with the same group two years ago at this time?
Social science certainly was an unavoidable topic. Students learned about social distancing and how to communicate in-virtual-person on mediums like Zoom and Google Hangouts. The sociological topics of herd immunity and community spread — which also cross over into epidemiology — were ripe for discussion.
Politics were prevalent, too. Wearing a mask took on a whole new meaning beyond just adhering to public health measures. Unfortunately, political judgments were cast on people based on their choices whether to wear or not wear face coverings.
Students also bore witness to adult behavior against the backdrop of a global pandemic.
They got to see the best in adults, like those who volunteered every week at food-distribution centers, those who rallied to bring district wide free COVID-19 testing, those who volunteered to be substitute teachers and school board members, those drove school buses everyday knowing there were safer places to be, those teachers who showed up to work whether in the classroom or at home.
They also go to see the worst in adults, like those who inflamed the comments section of school board meetings with divisive vitriol, those who called teachers “whiners” for bringing their challenges to the school board’s attention, and those who traveled and didn’t appropriately quarantine, as well as those who didn’t have their kids tested at school.
For sure, Aspen’s kindergarten-through-12th-grade pupils — to varying degrees since March 2020 — have been involuntarily enrolled in Pandemic School Life 101. They all deserve “A”-pluses.
Yet many students also regressed academically in the courses they actually took. As well, many suffered from mental health issues either new or exacerbated by the pandemic. They also became well acquainted with disappointment, whether it was because of a canceled debate, play, sporting event, dance or the plethora of other extracurricular activities that were shelved.
Learning remotely presented ample challenges aside from just the hassles that go with communicating online in real time. For students with parents also working from home and other parents losing their jobs, home life wasn’t always the most stimulating or conducive environment for academic progress.
The good news is that Aspen School District is headed in a positive direction. While the district took its lumps with class closures and quarantines, and dissatisfaction expressed by both teachers and parents during the 2020-21 year, operations have been going rather smoothly of late. That’s what happens when people get vaccinated, public health restrictions loosen, and social stresses ease.
It usually takes a new superintendent a year or two to understand a school district’s political climate and parental influence. It probably just took a couple of months for David Baugh to catch on that Aspen can be a tough, demanding crowd. He probably also sensed quickly, however, that the district’s academic potential and opportunities can seem limitless when the community is united.
We hope Aspen’s public educators and administrators get a chance to recharge this summer. And we wish the class of 2021 the best in the future. We are counting on our youth, and we believe in them also.
We also hope the experiences from the pandemic provide a teachable moment for the entire Aspen School District community, which starts with respect toward one another through listening and empathy. Because if the pandemic taught us anything, it’s that we have a lot to learn if we truly are in this together.
The Aspen Times editorial board is comprised of publisher Samantha Johnston, editor David Krause, managing editor Rick Carroll, reporters Scott Condon and Carolyn Sackariason, and copy editor/columnist Sean Beckwith.
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