I bet 2020 looked different than you imagined it would. It definitely looked different than I expected.
I never imagined we would spend most of the year masked up and in various levels of quarantine and isolation. I never imagined some of our students would spend a significant portion of the year learning at home instead of in classrooms. I never imagined so many lives would be lost to a virus. And yet, our community pulled together and created solutions to unimaginable issues.
Lewis-Palmer School District 38 continues to engage in discussions with other Pikes Peak area school districts and El Paso County Public Health officials in regards to what is best for our students, staff, and families. Based on the recommendations of EPCPH, we reached a general consensus to postpone the beginning of the second semester. The return-to-learn date for all D38 students was Jan. 11 instead of the previously published return date of Jan. 5.
Moving our start date back allowed us to assess the impact of the winter break on COVID numbers. It also provided more time and opportunities for staff training and professional development for the second half of the school year. Additionally, our secondary schools are implementing a synchronous expectation for the non in-person cohort days within our hybrid learning model. This strengthens the consistency and quality of student and teacher interactions. I realize this will be another big lift for our students, staff and families.
I’m immensely proud of how, once again, we overcome the major obstacles 2020 placed in our learning paths.
To further clarify, all students (pK-12) returned to school on Monday. Elementary students returned to 100% in-person learning. Our middle and high schools resumed a hybrid schedule with part-time in-person learning. Online students continued with online programming. D38 has not stopped assessing the potential for our middle and high school students to return to 100% in-person learning as soon as feasible.
2020 was beyond our imaginings, far from any reality we ever envisioned. It came, and we are forever changed. I hear the phrases “let’s get back to normal; let’s get all of our students back in classrooms” almost daily. Our goal in D38 is never to go backwards. We aim to continually improve our learning practices, to continually improve our students’ experiences. I remain inspired by our students, staff, and families as we navigate these challenging times. We are dedicated, focused, and resilient in the face of adversity.
We learned important lessons this past year. D38 now utilizes improved tools and strategies in our online and in-person classrooms. Many of these practices are here to stay. I believe that we are better now than we were before. We know more about providing every possible resource for our students. We will always deliver what is better for them. We will overcome new obstacles in 2021 and move forward.
Dr. KC Somers is superintendent of Lewis-Palmer School District 38.