BVSD welcomes K-2 students for in-person learning

Many Boulder Valley kindergartners experienced a traditional first-day of school milestone Tuesday, getting last minute hugs and encouragement from parents before they walked into classrooms that sat empty for the first five weeks of school.

“It feels so good to have students here,” said Cameo Rainaldo-DeDominces, principal at Lafayette’s Ryan Elementary School. “Our K-2 teachers were so excited. We tried to make our school and classrooms feel as homey and welcoming as possible.”

LAFAYETTE, CO - Sept. 29, 2020: ...
Amber Paterno kisses her son Logan as he enters his first-grade classroom at Ryan Elementary in Lafayette on Tuesday. (Cliff Grassmick/Staff Photographer)

After starting the school year online, K-2 students now can attend in person four days a week. Students in intensive special education programs also started in person Tuesday — K-2 special education students for four days a week, and 3-12 special education students in person two days.

At the high school level, students enrolled at the Boulder Technical Education Center returned Tuesday for two days a week of in-person classes, with the rest online. Preschool students go back in person two days a week starting Oct. 6.

All students continue to have the option to stay online only, either through their home school or through the district’s online school, Boulder Universal.

With its first group starting in person, Boulder Valley now is looking to bring other grades back, if supported by health data and logistically possible. The plan is for grades three to five to attend in-person classes four days a week, while middle and high school students would attend in person one day a week.

Start dates would be staggered by grade. Third, sixth and ninth grades would start Oct. 20. Seventh, eighth, 10th, 11th and 12th grades would start Nov. 12. Fourth grade would start Nov. 10. Fifth grade would start Nov. 17.

Superintendent Rob Anderson said an update on bringing more grades back for in-person learning is expected next week.

“Please know that our team is continuing to work to address the logistical issues we face and we will be closely watching the COVID-19 health data in coming weeks,” he said in an email to families.

At Ryan Elementary, about 140 of the school’s 200 K-2 students attended in person Tuesday. Districtwide enrollment numbers weren’t available Tuesday.

LAFAYETTE, CO - Sept. 29, 2020: ...
Ryan Elementary Principal Cameo Rainaldo-DeDominces waves to the students arriving for in-person school on Tuesday. (Cliff Grassmick/Staff Photographer)

Ryan kindergartner Henry Huckins described online learning as boring because “we can’t really see what we’re doing and we lose internet all the time.”

He said he was ready to try learning in the classroom.

“I was very excited,” he said. “That’s why I only ate one bite of my doughnut.”

Classmate June Stone shared his excitement.

“I’m excited to play and make friends,” she said.

In Ryan’s kindergarten classrooms, movement breaks, art projects and story times were interspersed with talking about expectations for school.

There were the typical rules, including raising your hand before talking and listening when the teacher talks, and new safety rules, including not sharing your glue sticks and lining up far enough apart so your arms can’t touch the classmate in front of you.

Most students sat on the floor, while a few sat at tables. Classes are using either donated yoga mats or vinyl cushions for those sitting on the floor, plus small individual, plastic trays for work spaces. All students have individual bins of supplies and materials.

In teacher Amber Lewandowski’s class, students got pink plastic pouches stuffed with pencils, crayons, glue sticks, scissors and other supplies out of their bins so they could glue raccoon features to a heart, creating the main character from “The Kissing Hand” book.

“We are not going to share because we want to make sure we stay healthy,” she said.

She said she was overjoyed to see her students in person.

“It was a gift to be able to work in person with my students,” she said. “It was a gift to be able to hear and observe and see their emotions and questions. Teaching virtually often leaves you guessing if you’re moving too fast or slow or if your lesson is engaging or dull. Today, I could read and respond to my students’ needs.”

She said her focus for her students for the first few weeks is making sure school is a safe place where they feel loved.

“There have been so many uncertainties and anxieties for all of us, including our little people,” she said. “So, as we get back to what we took for granted for so long — in-person learning — I just want our kindergartners to know that we are going to love them and take care of them and that everything is going to be OK.”

Next door, kindergarten teacher Tabitha Burgtorf praised her class for sitting nicely and looking at her while she talked, telling them they were “amazing.”

“At the beginning of kindergarten, I do have a lot of important things I need to tell you,” she said before talking about masks and how to pull them down to take a drink. “When you’re around people other than family and inside, we wear masks. That keeps us safe, and it keeps our friends safe.”

She said the start of the school year remains “all about how to be a positive member of our classroom community,” adding there are just some extra steps for students to learn this year.

“I would like them to feel safe and cared for and to know how to care for others and keep themselves safe,” she said.

LAFAYETTE, CO - Sept. 29, 2020: ...
Teacher Henry Huettel greets students who arrived by bus to Ryan Elementary on Tuesday. (Cliff Grassmick/Staff Photographer)

At the school level, Rainaldo-DeDominces said, they worked to make sure classroom groups, or cohorts, don’t interact during the day. Times for lunch and recess are staggered, with lunch eaten in both the cafeteria and the gym to allow for more distancing.

Specials — art, music and P.E. — remain virtual, with those teachers delivering supplies to classrooms and leading classes virtually while a paraeducator helps in person. Each class has its own paraeducator, who also helps with recess, lunch and bathroom breaks.

The school’s halls are covered in dots to help students stay apart while walking. More dots keep students spread out in the lunch line, while dots on the table benches show them where to sit. With just K-2 students in the building, each classroom has its own bathroom.

The school also staggered both student drop-off and pickup times to reduce the number of students gathered.

In the morning, students line up outside their individual classrooms, waiting on dots spaced 6 feet apart. In the afternoon, bus riders leave first, followed by walkers and bikers. Families that drive have a QR code on their cars that’s scanned, letting the classroom teacher know to send out their child.

“It’s a lot of things they didn’t teach us about in principal school,” Rainaldo-DeDominces said. “But we feel really good about our set up here.”

Source Article