Aspen schools highlight community divide |

Aspen schools highlight community divide

I am thankful to see the Aspen school board pushing for a plan to open the schools to all students.

High School Principal Sarah Strassburger and her team have created a thoughtful plan for distance learning. However, it is not a substitute for the real thing. The volume of screen time alone should cause alarm for any parent. Are we are creating a generation of children who don’t understand how to communicate outside of technology? Do they understand that respect and civility are just as important on Zoom?

And what about their emotional well-being? A recent study showed that one in four adults in the U.S. have experienced thoughts of suicide during the pandemic. The same study also identified 18-24-year-olds as a high-risk age group for this mental health crisis. Everything our children are experiencing at the moment — the uncertainty, isolation, fear, anger and stress — are only contributing to this.

I agree with board member Katy Frisch in her comments about the divide within our district.

The day after Labor Day, an article in each newspaper highlighted the inequity of our current situation. One article described the Elementary School teachers welcoming the children back to the campus, while the competing newspaper published a detailed description of “specialty pods” created by parents who had the financial means to hire a teacher privately and recreate the classroom atmosphere in their homes.

Sunday’s article by Rick Carroll detailed the support that teachers are receiving for their own children. However, most working parents do not have these options; they are continuously juggling work while supporting their children’s home-schooling efforts. The divide in our community is glaringly obvious. Any sense of normalcy is only for the families who can afford it.

I believe that Pitkin County also has a role to play. Six months into the pandemic, we still cannot get a COVID-19 test easily unless we have obvious symptoms. Many tests are prohibitively expensive. Why can’t we get testing for our population, as needed? Wouldn’t this help to open our schools?

Joan Valentine