Is full in-person learning coming back? Here’s what we learned this week — and what we’re working on

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Hello, families! I’m Denver7 education reporter Nicole Brady. Welcome to the first entry in our new “education notebook,” where I will discuss the big education stories of the week and talk about the challenges and opportunities for education in Colorado.

First, a little about me: I have been a working as a journalist since 2002 and have covered many schools and many districts over that time. But it wasn’t until the pandemic hit last year that I began devoting myself to education coverage full time.

As many have pointed out, the pandemic brought new challenges, but it also exposed inequities and deficiencies in education that have been present for decades. My goal with this weekly notebook is to talk about both of those issues.

I am also the parent of Maya (second grade) and Dylan (first grade). This year we chose to home-school them, but I am counting the days until they’re back in school! I have learned a lot about home-schooling and alternative school options this year and it has opened my mind. I will continue to explore those stories, in addition to the major issues affecting our public schools.

What we learned this week

So let’s get to the big stories of this week!

• The conversation over a return to full in-person learning for high school and middle school students continues to cause frustrations for both those who want to return, and those who don’t.

This week, some teachers at Standley Lake High School in JeffCo Public Schools wrote a letter calling the district’s Restart Plan a “massive failure.” Meanwhile in Aurora Public Schools, letters between Superintendent Rico Munn and the board of the Aurora Education Association prompted an emergency school board meeting. The board meeting was canceled, with board members saying they’ll work to resolve outstanding concerns.

Read and watch my full story about the rising tensions between teachers and district leadership.

• Several school districts have announced plans to return middle and high school students to full in-person learning. Littleton Schools plans to bring them back on March 15. The Poudre School District has announced March 22. Next week the Douglas County School Board will vote on a March 22 return date.

Denver Public Schools hasn’t yet announced plans for a full return to in-person learning.

• The other big story of the week has to be the debate over snow days. On Thursday, Denver Public Schools and JeffCo Public schools called a remote learning day, while other districts gave their students a day off.

Denver School Board member Tay Anderson tweeted urging families to take a day off in protest.

Aurora Public Schools initially called a remote learning day but changed it to a snow day and explained it had not given enough time to prepare. Clearly, snow days still cause plenty of confusion and frustration. The question is, will districts return to regular “snow days” next year and in subsequent years when remote learning (hopefully) begins to fade from our memories?

Read and watch our 360 story on the snow day debate here.

Here are a few other education stories from this month:

• A bipartisan group of Colorado lawmakers will move forward with their plans to request a waiver from the federal government to be exempt from statewide standardized testing this year.

• An internal survey from the Colorado Education Association (CEA) reveals nearly 40% of their members are considering leaving teaching after the 2020-2021 school year.

• As school districts begin to consider summer school to make up for pandemic-related learning loss, a group of Colorado education and community leaders is proposing something a little more creative. The Recovery Summer Coalition hopes to use federal and state funds to find community-based solutions for summer engagement.

What I’m working on

Finally, I’d like to talk about some stories I have in the pipeline.

Summer will be here before we know it, and I’m starting to examine the different plans districts and community groups are making for summer learning. I would love to hear your thoughts on “summer school” to make up for learning loss.

I am also following several legislative matters, including the effort to secure a waiver from standardized testing.

Questions? Reach out!

Have questions about an issue in your child’s school? Have a story tip? Please email me any time with any of your thoughts: Nicole.Brady@thedenverchannel.com