Clear Creek schools are back in session

Column by Karen Quanbeck
Posted 8/19/21

We are back! By the time you read this, students will be back in classrooms, or outside on a trail or in some other interesting place learning. Before students returned, educators spent time learning …

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Clear Creek schools are back in session

Posted

We are back! By the time you read this, students will be back in classrooms, or outside on a trail or in some other interesting place learning. Before students returned, educators spent time learning and working together, and it wasn’t always inside. 

The first day for educators looked like this: on the trail at Mt. Falcon talking about strong student communities and academic planning; visiting local businesses and community partners in Idaho Springs; sitting in the new athletic stadium at Clear Creek Middle/High School talking about capstone projects and students’ futures; walking the newly built trail at the middle/high school discussing the graduate profile; visiting our Project Bike Tech classroom to brainstorm more career-connected learning opportunities for students. 

Some of our educators even came back early to learn with Luke Foley, a CCSD graduate and experiential, outdoor learning expert and coach. Our community has so many gifts to share: Clear Creek graduates with incredible talent, local businesses and organizations willing to partner and provide students with internships and more, and the mountains. Seriously, the mountains. Our “outside-the-classroom spaces” are exceptional. 

So with staff and students back at school, what does Pandemic Learning 2.0 look like for everyone? We left last year thinking, “Phew! Did it!” We kept kids in school all year with tight health and safety protocols including masking, handwashing, cohorting and more. We looked forward to a return to “normal’’ in the fall. Most of us tucked away our masks (or lost them) and didn’t think much about checking temperatures or social distancing all summer. And then Delta. 

It is a shifting landscape as we dig out our masks and look for our vaccination records. The difference this year: We know more about pandemic learning, vaccines are making a difference, and we are really good at adapting quickly. (We joke, but not really, about earning the Golden Gumby Award.)

We are requiring masks (inside only) for now for students and adults. It’s challenging, especially on a hot day after lunch. Mascne (acne from masks) plagues some of us in the most unfortunate way. But wearing masks is less challenging than shifting to remote learning or quarantining. And last year we actually saw some unexpected benefits to masking and increased disinfecting: significantly fewer absences due to illnesses such as colds or the flu. Put bluntly, #covidstinks, #wegotthis.

None of us wants to continue to deal with a pandemic, especially as we consider the impact on students last year. However, we will continue to do the hard work required to keep kids safe, so we can spend our year focused on learning. 

Finally, something I’ve been thinking a lot about lately is the amount of conflict our kids experience or are exposed to in the media, our larger society or even closer to home. News stories on many topics, but especially on COVID, highlight the deep dissension within communities, political officials and even districts. Our students are resilient, and yet they pick up on adult emotions and conflicts.

We can help our kids by projecting an attitude of, “We got this.” A request: As you talk about the health and safety protocols, I am appealing to everyone to be thoughtful in words and actions, especially when around kids. This won’t always be our reality, and our kids deserve the most amazing learning experiences (and childhood) that we can offer now. 

Karen Quanbeck is superintendent of the Clear Creek School District.

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