ALAMOSA — Monday night’s meeting of the school board for the Alamosa School district launched the second semester of the 2020-2021 school year with a mixture of big picture perspective and deciding on new steps to take in the coming months.
In a conversation that was framed around big questions – a la where are we now and what’s the best way to go from here? – Interim Superintendent Marsha Cody addressed a situation that has been on the minds of everyone with a stake in educating students.
And the term she used is one that, essentially, defines itself.
Describing a year of starts and stops, in and out of different models of instruction, some systems that worked and some that didn’t and some experiences that taught lessons around the crucial importance of students’ engaging as a result of relationships with teachers, Cody addressed the impact on students who, in many cases, lost a full quarter of learning, if not more.
“We’re not out of this global pandemic yet. Far from it. So, we need to start thinking strategically and intentionally about unfinished learning. We have to document what learning students are not going to get in this school year – and teachers know what that is. So, we started tossing around some ideas…and some great ideas are starting to emerge.”
Cody described a plan, or at least a plan to build a plan, that will involve not just the school but the entire community “because it’s a community endeavor.” She posed the idea of expanded summer academics and summer camps where students are incentivized to come to school through a mixture of core classes and those activities students relish during school. “What about if we offer theater or basketball or soccer? How can we incentivize students to come in for academics by offering activities they enjoy? Like…soccer practice and then math or soccer practice and then literacy and then, maybe, games on Friday?”
Funding is always a consideration, especially so now, but there is funding available specifically to address unfinished learning as a result of COVID.
The initial step Cody presented in addressing unfinished learning is the creation of “The Recovery Committee” which, among other things, would include issuing an invitation to the community to apply to work side by side with educators in designing an engaging, dynamic, strategic program to bring students to school during the summer months, thereby addressing those gaps in skills and knowledge that are the result of a highly disrupted school year.
The idea was met with enthusiasm by the board.
COVID has revealed a number of areas in need of improvement, not the least of which involves students who do not have internet access. Cody requested permission from the board to apply for funding from the T-Mobile $10 million Project which provides funding to schools to address connectivity issues.
Along with a team of IT staff, Cody has determined a need for 202 hot spots, a number that was computed based on how many students are on free/reduced lunch, targeting those students who are “the furthest from opportunity.” At a cost of $15 per month, funding in the amount of $48,480 would provide hot spots to those students for a total of 16 months. The board granted permission for her to move forward in applying for the funding from T-Mobile.
In a sign that indicates that yes, there is indeed life after COVID, Alamosa Athletic Director Erik Melgoza informed the board that the school was going to be getting a new scoreboard since the two existing ones “have been there since the school was first built.” The new board will be placed in the middle of the gymnasium and, aside from the cost of installation, will not require any funding.
He also brought up the topic of creating a program for girls’ wrestling, asking the board for permission to move ahead. There are currently four girls attending Alamosa who are interested in competing with one other school in the San Luis Valley expressing interest, as well.
After presenting what appeared to be a great deal of research, Melgoza informed the board that girls wrestling, a CHSAA sanctioned sport, is gaining popularity at a number of schools throughout the region such that he currently has twenty wrestling dates. Melgoza was clear that it would be girls wrestling girls, a structure that CHSAA wants to protect similar to girls and boys basketball, and described a scenario where schools are taking co-operative, conscious, pro-active steps to make sure that this expansion in girls athletics is designed to be successful for both the athletes and schools involved.
The board had numerous questions about funding, setting precedence and other considerations but ultimately agreed to let the program move forward with the caveat that it’s a pilot program that will be re-evaluated at year’s end.
First practice for Girls Wrestling is slated for Jan. 18.
Melgoza also announced that, in the coming week, he is sending out a survey to students asking what activities they would like to see offered.
With a number of work sessions scheduled for the future, ranging from the search for a superintendent to the redistricting of school board positions, it would seem that nothing, not even a global pandemic, has slowed Alamosa School District for the coming year.