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Schooled in a barn

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Drayton Smalley attends a virtual lesson from the Wind Walkers barn which has been converted to a temporary classroom for student’s distance learning. Leander Hentschel plays with one of the goats between lessons. School supplies and a single carrot sit under the day’s task list. Kyan Goscha and Bridger Hertzog take care of the horses with their literacy and math tutor Melissa Taylor.

Updated Sept. 17, 2020

On Sept. 16, Roaring Fork School District hit the brakes on their plan to resume in-person learning for K-3 students citing the recent uptick in COVID cases. The increase in cases moves Garfield County from a level one to a level two risk indicating that a more cautious approach to in person interactions is required. 

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Currently there is no indication of when K-12 students will be able to return to the classroom, leaving parents having to balance how to facilitate their kids’ virtual education and provide for their families. To support district employees, the district partnered with local community organizations to facilitate online learning for the children of faculty and staff and also provide enrichment activities for kids when they are offline. Wind Walkers, a therapeutic riding and learning center just outside of Carbondale, is hosting a learning pod three days a week of eight middle school students.

“We took this on because we all have academic backgrounds,” says Executive Director Gabrielle Greeves. She sees the learning pod as a way to help teachers and administrators focus on their jobs so they can reach more students. She continued, “We want teachers and the staff writing curriculum to trust where their kids go to do their academics.”

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Academics are the priority for this pod of students. Former teacher Melissa Taylor already ran an established riding and literacy program for kids with dyslexia, and her employment was extended to provide in-person math and literacy instruction to students.  

While this program has been a positive solution for this small group of students, it is not a permanent one. As the winter approaches the cold weather will be a huge challenge and if schools stay virtual, Greeves does not think that the program will be able to extend past October. “We are offering what we can for as long as we can,” she said. 

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