GOSHEN COUNTY – Goshen County families are sending their students back into the physical classrooms as COVID-19 case numbers drop in the county and school buildings.
Donna Fields, director of curriculum for Goshen County School District No. 1, said there are currently 45 students learning remotely, via Zoom, at the same time as their in-person classmates, and 39 students participating in asynchronous virtual learning through the district. This number does not include students quarantine due to exposure to a positive case. Back in August, 150 total students were signed up to learn outside of the physical classroom.
GCSD families have the option of changing their child’s mode of education at any point, but most transitions were made around the holiday break.
“Between Thanksgiving and Christmas, we had a lot of students that were struggling and returning to school was a better option for the student,” Fields wrote in an email to the Telegram.
Gwen Walsh, fifth grade teacher at Trail Elementary, started the year with her physical classroom of masked-up students and a large screen with a Zoom window of eight students learning from their homes.
Walsh said four of her remote students recently joined her in-person, two before Christmas break and two after. Teaching hasn’t changed much for Walsh, who still has four additional students learning remotely, but for students, going from spending the eight-hour school day in their homes back to the classroom is an adjustment.
“They’re just getting used to that all over again,” she said. “The first couple of students I got back were so excited, I think they’d been begging their parents to come back. Then the last couple who came back, I think their parents were ready for them to come back and the students were the ones that were nervous.”
Reasons for returning to in-person learning are personal to each family. Christi Husted has three children enrolled in Goshen County schools who started the 2020-21 school year learning virtually via the district’s online, asynchronous program, Edmentum.
Her high school students, a senior and a sophomore, decided to finish the school year with the online program. Destani, Husted’s fourth grader, returned to in-person learning at Trail Elementary on Jan. 19.
Husted and her family opted to go virtual in the beginning of the school year, because her oldest is immunocompromised and she worried about Destani’s ability to wear a face covering throughout the school day.
Ultimately, Destani returned to the classroom due to a negative experience with a substitute teacher in her Edmentum program.
“She was patronized and made to feel like she was completely stupid, and she quit doing the work,” Husted said. “She’s doing much better. She needs one-on-one teaching.”
Destani’s return to in-person learning was smooth and uncomplicated. Walsh said the same about bringing her four remote learners into her classroom.
The district’s information technology staff is notified for attendance recording purposes, Walsh said, but students are “welcome to come back anytime.” With synchronous remote learning, that transition is easy.
“I have had students come for holiday parties, they kind of eased themselves back in,” she said. “I might have a parent call and say their child wants to try coming back a couple afternoons and see how it goes.”
Emanuel Bustamante, a senior at Torrington High School, started the year learning remotely, but he slowly ended up returning to in-person education. Bustamante is involved in THS band and choir groups, so he went into the building for those courses that are hard to participate in over Zoom.
After Christmas break, he decided to go back fully in-person out of convenience. COVID-19 case numbers are dropping in Goshen County schools, so he felt safe enough to return. As of press time Monday, GCSD reported two active cases throughout its buildings, zero at THS. Bustamante’s mother and brother have asthma, a condition that puts people at higher risk of serious illness if they test positive for the virus, which is why he and his siblings opted to learn online in the beginning of the year.
Overall, he is happy to finish his senior year in the traditional classroom.
“I get a bit anxious at times, but it’s fine,” Bustamante said. “There is one thing that I do miss. I miss having a heater in front of me. School can be freezing.”