Steamboat Springs High School will finish year in hybrid-learning model |

Steamboat Springs High School will finish year in hybrid-learning model

Students at Steamboat Springs High School will finish the year in a hybrid-learning model, a move backed by both students and parents. (Photo John F. Russell)

STEAMBOAT SPRINGS — Students at Steamboat Springs High School will finish out the school year in a hybrid-learning model.

During a meeting Monday night, the Steamboat Springs Board of Education unanimously sided with students and staff by forgoing a potential return to full-time, in-person classes with roughly six weeks left in the school year.

Many districts in Colorado, including larger districts on the Front Range, have opted to bring students back to in-person learning five days a week, but district administrators in Steamboat recommended the school stay in a hybrid model, saying feedback they have had from staff and students favored that approach.

“Our students should really be driving some of the conversation on this, especially after the year that they have had and all the resiliency that they have shown,” said Dennis Alt, interim high school principal.

Alt said students have told them they are worried about the disruption a change would cause at this point, with many of them having planned work hours and classes at Colorado Mountain College. They are also concerned a return would lead to more quarantines like the school had last fall.

Bringing students back now would have added 17 days of in-person instruction for high school students, though seniors would likely see fewer additional days.

Under the current hybrid model, students are grouped into cohorts and go to school in-person two days a week and every other Friday.

In one of the more robust public comment sessions at a school board meeting in months, most of those looking to weigh in were the students at the center of the discussion.

Every high school student who spoke told the board they did not want to come back to school and are worried a return could threaten AP and other types of testing, their participation in school sports and, for the seniors who spoke, their ability to have a traditional graduation.

Sophomore Maggie Baumgartner said a lot of her peers have been dealing with mental and educational burnout, and a return now would make it worse.

“We’re given a bad rap for just being lazy when really, we are actually struggling, because all year it has been push through, push through, push through and finish strong,” Baumgartner said. “If we’re going back to school, that is going (to) get worse for a lot of students.”

Lucy Travis, a student at the high school who with three others wrote a letter to the board, noted that the meeting, where a potential return to full-time, in-person learning was being discussed, was being held virtually.

“Five board members are not meeting in-person, and the board is looking to send 600 to 700 students back to school in one building at once,” Travis said.

Two parents weighed in during public comment on the other side of the debate, arguing that students should be back in school, and the decision should not be left up to them. But other parents voiced their support for their students who want to stay in the current model.

In a survey conducted by the district, both students and school staff heavily favored staying in the current learning model. Just 20% of the 419 students who responded to the survey indicated they were comfortable with returning to school, and 83% of them indicated comfort with staying in the current model.

Responses were similar among the 50 teachers who took the survey, with 22% of them feeling comfortable coming back full time, and 88% saying they felt comfortable with staying in the current model.

The district also posed the questions to parents, and 65% of 517 who responded said they were comfortable with their students returning to school full time. About 47% of them also said they were comfortable with staying in the current model.

Board President Kelly Latterman said that from the start she has been in favor of returning students to school full time at all levels. By this, she explained, she wants to maximize the number of in-person days.

“Due to the current quarantine structure, I am in no way convinced that we would be maximizing in-person school days at this point in the school year for high school students by saying tonight we are moving to a five-day school schedule,” Latterman said.

Before voting to keep students in the current model, Latterman emphasized the board is committed to bringing students back in the fall.

“We are completely committed to going back to school for fall 2021 in-person for all grade levels,” Latterman said. “It is something that is not necessarily on the agenda this evening, but it is something I want to draw attention to.”

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