Englewood schools prepare for in-person learning

Task force seeks guidelines for fall instruction

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Tasked with finding a way to safely bring students back to in-person learning while striving to provide critical student needs like food, Englewood Schools is finalizing frameworks that will guide a return to in-person learning.

Last month, the school district announced the formation of a task force, made up of district administrators, teachers and principals, that will come up with frameworks that will guide decisions surrounding the return to school in August. The task force is divided into different sub-committees that include preschool, elementary, middle school, high school, food, health and safety and remote learning groups.

Englewood Schools is planning to offer both in-person and remote learning, giving families an opportunity to decide if they want to send their child to school or not.

Here is a look at what school might look like at Englewood Middle School.

Returning to in-person learning for the first time in five months

Annessa Hart, principal at Englewood Middle School, is serving on the district’s middle school and food, health and safety committees. Hart said the school is looking to host 60 to 75 students at max in the cafeteria during lunch at one time. The school shares a cafeteria with Englewood High School.

“The tricky part is making sure it doesn’t take us twice as long to get students out of the lunchroom. We’ve been talking about when high school needs the lunchroom and when middle school does — that way we can social distance and have staff to cover,” said Hart.

The cafeteria’s lunch tables can hold eight students per table, but Hart said the tables will probably only hold three students at a time in order to practice social distancing.

Englewood Schools students will have access to breakfast and lunch at schools, even if they are participating in lessons remotely. School food is critical to some students as around 65% of Englewood Schools students are on free or reduced lunch, said Julie McMorris, a spokesperson for the district.

Frankie Crispino, a Spanish and leadership teacher at Englewood Middle School, said the school needs to keep students in smaller groups to keep the threat of COVID-19 low while still trying to honor choice of electives.

Crispino, who is serving on the district’s middle school and food, health and safety committees, admitted it was a struggle to teach Spanish virtually and to not have face to face interaction with her students to ensure they are understanding her curriculum.

“One of my biggest concerns is coming up with planning and coming up with great ideas, and then we can’t open. It’s really important to go back at the beginning to build relationships with new students,” said Crispino. “We want to build our relationships so that we have those expectations in case we need to switch to remote (learning).”

Hart said students might stay in one classroom instead of rotating to other areas throughout the building for different subjects. If the guideline is carried out, teachers would rotate to different classrooms to teach their subject.

The task force has talked about purchasing plexiglass to put in between desks for added protection from the threat of the virus. Hart said that idea is something the task force will have to think about more strategically.

“I’m a little nervous (about social distancing), to be honest. Our classrooms are not made to be six feet apart with 25 kids in one room,” said Hart.

A later first day of school

The school district recently moved the first day of school from August 13 to August 27 to provide additional time for staff training.

Karla Shotts, a multi-media teacher at Englewood High School and a member of the task force, said the school district felt it was important to give staff all the time it can to plan — especially if lessons have to be moved online.

“A lot of our teachers are good with technology and others need support. Giving everyone on our staff technology training, time to plan and time to think about what their lessons look like is the most important commodity we can give to our teachers and staff,” said Shotts.

The frameworks from the taskforce are expected to be released from the district by July 15.

“It’s exciting work. This is the most important work that I’ll do other than teach in my entire career,” said Shotts.

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