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The Salida School District started the 2021-2022 school year in person at the beginning of the week. The district successfully was able to keep in-person classes last year due to their unique flexible approach. That is their approach this year too.

Ark Valley Voice spoke with superintendent David Blackburn to learn how the kickoff of the year went and get an update on what’s happening at the district.

When asked how the first couple of days have been, Blackburn explained “They’re going great, much smoother than expected after last year. We’ve not had any in-school transmission of COVID. Today there’s no new cases for example, yesterday no new cases.” He continued “The district is trying to be flexible in the same way we were last year. Where we respond to the data of the day. Last year with that strategy we were able to stay in-person.”

Photo by Brooke Gilmore.

Not only has the district had success with the beginning of the year, but their ability to keep in-person learning made an impact on student learning. “The test scores have come back. We kept highest levels of percentages, we kept high levels of participation on test scores,” said Blackburn. “The state’s participation went down. We outscored the state in every single area. In most areas our test scores went up where in almost all other areas test scores went down.”

“With a flexible COVID strategy like we were using last year we stayed in-person and we closed learning gaps; the rest of the nation had learning gaps appear,” Blackburn added.

When asked what student response to in-person learning has been like Blackburn explained that kids seem to be excited to be in-person. “That’s the majority of all our family’s experience. Enrollment is up, it’s up by about 115 kids at the moment from last year. So, the growth in the community is being felt by the school districts. Most buildings are up, they’ve got all their kids that were online back, plus another 40 to 50.”

Image by William Wooddell.

Wednesday was back-to-school night at Salida High School which gives parents the opportunity to connect with teachers. “We’re really trying hard to increase participation in activities because we think that’s one of the most things for adolescents to stay engaged and healthy both physically and mentally. So we’re pushing on that piece. We do have our athletics and things are rolling,” said Blackburn.

As many remember, the district has annunced plans to  change to graduation requirements at the high school. Blackburn explained “The board of education has started that process they promised of really listening to the community. So that process is [facilitated] by Onward Consultants, and they’ll be all through the end of September and October, reaching out to community members to listen. That’s the school board’s passion and what they’re pulling off.”