Spring is almost here! We can hear the songbirds in the mornings at STEM, Daylight Saving Time is coming up on Sunday March 14 and the Equinox is coming up to officially announce the change in season. The one-year mark of the global COVID shutdown also is bringing a thawing of restrictions.
Earlier this week, the Douglas County School District, along with several other School Districts, announced that they would be transitioning back to full-time in-person learning after their respective Spring Breaks. Our Leadership Team at STEM has been discussing what this would look like at STEM for quite some time.
We are confident that we will be ready to go to welcome back our Secondary students on Monday, March 22. In the Fall, we welcomed back our Elementary students to four-days of in-person learning, and while that seemed daunting at the time, we were able to come together as one STEM community and provide our students with a great learning experience.
Some of the ways we are ushering in spring:
- Grades 6-12 will merge cohorts and return to four days/week of in-person instruction after spring break (Monday, March 22). (Virtual students can remain virtual and students in our two-day a week Hybrid Academic Plan can remain in that plan)
- All staff have received access to the COVID vaccine reducing the need for quarantines.
- More opportunities for students to engage in extracurricular activities and sports.
- More outdoor time for our students.
- STEM has not had a single transmission of COVID at school this year.
- Staff had early access to vaccinations starting in January as a 1B priority.
- Teachers were given access to the BinaxNOW home testing program.
- Except for a few weeks of closure when STEM could not fill sub requests to maintain safety of supervision and instruction, STEM was one of a few schools in the country to remain open for in-person learning for the entire school year, similar to other DCSD charters and local private schools.
STEM understands that returning to in-person for four days per week instead of five days a week disappoints some of our families. Unlike most DCSD schools where virtual students use a purchased asynchronous program, STEM teachers K-12 simultaneously provide in-person and virtual instruction.
Our faculty have Friday to create content, upload asynchronous instruction, and also provide synchronous or asynchronous instruction depending on the course. Teacher retention is a priority for STEM. Teachers have shared how stressful it has been providing in-person and simultaneous virtual instruction during an already challenging and stressful year. Friday is a way to provide additional time for our teachers for the extra demands.
COVID-19 has had a tremendous impact on education throughout the world. We will continue to see the fallout from its impact for the next few years as school and district administrators, along with teachers and students work through the recovery process.
For the 2021-22 school year, STEM will return to as close to normal as it can by offering five days a week K-12 in-person learning. We will survey our families later in the spring to strategize how to accommodate virtual instruction requests and how that may impact our schedule for next year.
The last quarter of the 2020-21 school year will allow for us to best prepare for a more return-to-normal starting in the Fall.
I want to thank our entire parent, student and staff community for their patience and understanding. This has not been an easy year, but with Spring right around the corner, I am reminded that we’ve almost made it through.
P.J. Eucker PhD