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Valley teachers and students learn to cope, virtually

Locations: News Published

What’s it like to go from sitting at a desk with the teacher a few rows in front going over the day’s curriculum to the long distance of a computer screen? 

All the same ingredients — teaching, studying and even laughing — are still there, but it’s a whole new world kids are living in. And teachers can’t easily figure out who is paying attention or grabbing a quick nap in the back row. 

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Distance learning, a new but now regularly used school district phrase, will formally begin Mon., April 20 in Roaring Fork School District (RFSD). Colorado Governor Jared Polis suspended in-person learning through April 30 and ordered all residents, except those considered essential, to stay at home until at least April 26. 

According to Public Information Officer Kelsey Been, the district has not yet made a decision on whether or not to maintain the closure through the end of the school year.

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All students in grades three and up have been issued Chromebooks, and the district’s website,  rfsd.k12.co.us, has details about free and low-cost internet options.

RFSD is also providing free meals to all children, with grab-and-go breakfast and lunch distributed  at the Crystal River and Basalt Elementary schools from 10 to 10:30 a.m. and delivery options are available at specific sites. Those who cannot get to a location should email familyservices@rfschools.com or call 384-9500.

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In the meantime, families like the Nickersons of Carbondale have been trying to figure out the ways and means of homeschooling.
“We are using a collection of resources, including web sites,” said Molly Nickerson. She and her husband, Ryan McGovern have two young children: Evelyn, 6, who attends Crystal River Elementary School, and Maeve, 4, who goes to Mt. Sopris Montessori School.

“We have a network of caring to rely on,” Nickerson noted. Among the sites she uses is Kahn Academy, a free online service that describes itself as “engaging kids in core subjects like early literacy, reading, writing, language, and math, while encouraging creativity and building  social-emotional skills.”
“But,” Molly reported, “The kids are missing the social interactions at school.”
Nickerson is teaching a variety of  subjects, including seed germination and eggs, which the family colored for Easter.
Been described the district’s use of “Google Hangouts,” an online meeting tool that works with students’ Google accounts and on all types of devices. Teachers will use Google Hangouts Meet for Crew circles and office hours to connect with students during the school closure. Students can also join by phone. An Infinite Campus RFSD parent portal for families has been set up for families to get the latest updates.

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RFSD Superintendent Dr. Rob Stein announced, “Unlike younger students, high school seniors are facing the pressing deadline of graduation. We will be reviewing all seniors’ records to determine specific supports to enable them to graduate on time. We are guided by the principle that we will not penalize students for circumstances which are out of their control.”

For those students wishing to change schools or those enrolling for the first time (including kindergarten) should go to the district website through June 30.

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