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During the October 13 Salida School Board meeting, Salida High School Principal Thompson gave an update after the sudden closure of the Salida School District and pivot to online learning a few weeks ago. It happened again this morning, when the high school again pivoted to a remote learning day when another positive case surfaced.

“Right now we have 305 students in person at Salida High School. That is down from last year. As a district we have 367 students, said Thompson. “That is about on par of what we had last year so we do have 60-some students who are attending classes online rather than at Salida High School.”

Double temperature checks are being utilized. Every person has their temperature taken before entering the building and then again before they enter their first hour class. The school has set up directional hallways, so students going east have to be on the first floor and the second floor only goes west. Thompson explained “That is another attempt to reduce face to face contact with students.”

Salida High School. image courtesy of Heart of the Rockies Radio

Water fountains have been turned off and two new water bottle fillers have been installed. There are now three water bottle fillers in the academic wing so students still have access to water, but the risk of spread is reduced.

Class sizes have been limited to 20 students per class. In three different situations students have had to be removed from classes in order to maintain that class size. A number of classes are at capacity.

Lunch logistics have also changed. In the past, freshman and sophomores shared a lunch block while juniors and seniors shared the other time. This year, the school has the freshman and juniors sharing lunch and the sophomores and seniors sharing since underclassmen have to stay on campus. This has cut the number of students in the cafeteria in half which allows for social distancing.

The high school has also switched to a block schedule this year in response to COVID-19. Staff are still working out all of the kinks and Thompson explained “Our schedule is not perfect, but we did learn a lot from it. Overall, from the teacher’s standpoint I would say 75 percent of my teachers are really happy with the way it’s going and like the new layout of the schedule.”

The High School has also hired a nurse. “We now have a full time nurse at Salida High School which is amazing. We have never had that. We usually split [coverage] with Salida Middle School. We have Rebecca Capozza at Salida High School,” said Thompson. “I don’t think one nurse could have handled everything that is going on this year. Her coordination with the quarantine students this last week was amazing and she is an awesome addition to our staff in Salida Schools.”

The High School had to adjust the semester dates. January 14 will be the new end of the semester, whichThmpson says is necessary to balance the semesters, because they had a late start in the spring.

Spartan Logo Courtesy of Salida School District Homepage

The collaboration with Colorado Mountain College (CMC) has been significant during this semester. CMC will offer two additional ‘skinny classes’ for the upcoming semester to help provide alternative options for electives. Some 89 high school students are taking at least one CMC class. Last year only 22 students were enrolled in the program.

Anyone who needed a computer or device has received one from the district. WiFI Hotspots were also handed out which has led to less connectivity issues.

Thompson highlighted the band and choir programs for allowing students a chance to participate. “They practice outside and plan on doing a virtual concert, explained Thompson. “They have done an awesome job. There are many instances of that. I think that Andre Wilkins has done an amazing job in conjunction with the other two music teachers in the district.”

In regards to how students are faring with the health regulations Thompson said  “Student compliance with the mask situation has been amazing. Students have been great at keeping their masks on. We constantly are reminding kids to cover their nose but otherwise we’re doing pretty good. The have just been really awesome.”

“Overall our student response has been pretty positive,” Thompson continued. “The kids seemed really happy to be back in class yesterday t. 12) they got to come back and weren’t out for two months.”

In relation to parental communication Thompson said “We’re working on keeping our communication with parents. We have another parent meeting scheduled for next week. Our teachers are reporting that when they do have to go to distance learning they are having better attendance and feel like they’re getting better engagement from their students moving forward.”

Canvas is the learning management system being used by Salida High School. Many teachers are using Canvas every day whether they are in person or online. Others only use it online. The goal is to implement it 100 percent by the end of the school year.

On staff morale, Thompson said “I made an effort this Monday when we got back to talk to every single staff member. With a few exceptions, I got to 90 percent of them. They were all feeling very positive about the way things worked last week.” Thompson continued, “They’ve got good energy, a lot of them are excited about the Canvas roll out. They’re working hard with the number of students we currently have on quarantine this week. They’re doing great, have a real positive attitude about working with them. I think staff morale for the most part at the High School is pretty good.”

“In my mind the things we put in place are working,” concluded Thompson.