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Letters: Colorado River Fire Rescue, building codes, stimulus checks, and collective action

Thanks for Colorado River Fire Rescue

In the wake of our house fire up Divide Creek, Mitch and I feel so blessed by the outpouring of support from our neighbors, friends and family. We would like to first thank our neighbor Brent Herrala and his family for reporting and documenting the fire. Our wonderful neighbors, Mark and Lisa Balcomb for all their concern and offers of help. The Colorado River Fire Department was incredible in keeping the fire contained to only the house. They fought tirelessly for over 20 hours. At times like this you truly realize what an amazing community we live in. Words cannot describe our gratitude to everyone who reached out.

Sanja and Mitch Morgan
Silt

Roaring Fork Valley should update building codes to help combat climate change

Insanity, said Einstein, is doing the same thing but expecting a different result. Unfortunately, the Einstein diagnosis means that Carbondale, and this valley, are far around the bend. Some 90% of Americans now think climate change is happening.

But what are we doing about it?

While researching methods of dealing with the lowering of carbon emissions, I came across a Danish company that is manufacturing innovative equipment and products to retrofit and lower the emissions of existing buildings in Europe. Even Carbondale recognizes that existing buildings are a major part of our local greenhouse gas emissions. The spokesperson pointed out that, ironically, the world (and Carbondale) continues to construct new buildings that are also emitting greenhouse gas from burning fossil fuels. These new buildings are now just added to existing buildings that need to be retrofitted.

What would Einstein say? When you find yourself in a hole — stop digging! The technology exists for new buildings to be free of emissions. We should demand that they use it. Parts of California are now requiring this. New gas lines are not allowed.

There are existing building codes that do require new structures to be more efficient. We also have new requirements for solar panels on some buildings. But all these buildings are still part of the problem. I suggest we get tough on this and only allow fossil fuel free buildings. And soon. We are in the midst of a development boom.

Changing these building codes will spur innovation and push for better pricing on the kinds of practices, materials and products that can solve these problems.

Patrick Hunter
Carbondale

Don’t need a $600 stimulus? Donate it to those in need

Yesterday I received my $600 stimulus check. I began thinking about what to spend it on. As I went over the many options I realized that without the check I can pay my mortgage. I can pay my utilities, phone bill, cable TV, car payment, insurance. I can put food on the table. What happened to me that I deserve or need this stimulus check. Nothing. Why should I receive this unearned and undeserved windfall? I would like to challenge everyone who received the stimulus check who has a job and can take care of all your needs without it to consider as I have done to donate the money to Lift Up or some other charity. We have many of our fellow citizens who have fallen on to hard times thru no fault of their own who desperately need a hand up. It is difficult for me to see the need in our community and turn a blind eye while I think about spending my check on things I don’t really need. Please consider donating to help the people in our community who need our help.

Gary Paul Starr
Glenwood Springs

‘We can make a difference through collective action’

One of the aspects of my job that I love the most is being out and engaged with my community, developing relationships, and tackling complex issues. I deeply miss gathering in the same room with my neighbors to discuss how we can improve our valleys and putting pen to paper on big ideas. Over the last year, just like everyone out here, I have had to rethink and retool the majority of my professional and personal activities.

All of our lives have been disrupted by this pandemic – shucks, it’s in the name — pandemic: global outbreak. Businesses have had to innovate to overcome new challenges. Schools have had to make tough decisions and adapt to evolving circumstances. Health care workers have had to persevere through months of consistent crisis.

With information coming from our hospitals and public health professionals on the deepening severity of our situation, I am reminded of how we must remain diligent in doing our part to stop the spread. I am motivated to do this by the people in my life who are affected by my actions.

I would never be able to forgive myself if something happened to my parents, my sisters, my friends if they became ill because I wasn’t careful, because I thought that I was the exception to public health’s warnings. Beyond those who are closest to me, I think of my fellow community members and the immense weight that comes with health and financial hardships.

I think we can all agree that we want to see our local business community succeed. I chose this community precisely because of our vibrant local character. This is why I prioritize shopping local and order delivery or take out as often as possible. If we all follow the fact-based protocols of limiting gatherings, wearing masks, washing hands, keeping our distance and staying home when sick we can bring our numbers down, but we ALL have to do our part.

We can make a difference through collective action. This is what the United to Stop the Spread campaign asks us to do. Encourage your neighbors and friends to take health protocols seriously for our businesses, our schools, our families and our essential workers.

Bryana Starbuck
Team member for the United to
Stop the Spread campaign
Glenwood Springs

Wednesday letters: Talk radio, moral high ground, making sacrifices, Trump’s golfing

Conservative talk radio not informational

Scanning the FM radio band, I’m looking for reasons for the massive information divide that is clawing apart the country. No advertising assures that the news is NPR and dialogue is fact-based and informative. In contrast, long, banal advertising runs expose the stations as hosting conservative talk shows. The growling commentators, depress me. Their monologs hold no informational content, just the unceasing, exaggerated, derogatory debasement and accusation of everything “liberal.” The inflammatory content struck me as pure incitement, calling for un-civil confrontation, with even the occasional suggestion of armed conflict. How can anyone stay sane listening this?

John Hoffmann
Carbondale

Moral high ground is mushy

We’re all creatures of habit and don’t know it. What this country now has is a bad case of narcissism. Let’s believe in a false narrative. Kind of reminds one of hypnotic self-affirmations: “I am a good person.” Too bad Donald Trump called them on it. The classic thing to do is deny the narcissism and blame the messenger.

So while half the country is taking his existence personally, they continue to feed at the same narcissistic, incestuous trough. Such people including corporate lobbyists have cooked up a half-baked agenda in Bernie Sander’s kitchen and are trying to feed it to Joe Biden. In the meantime, anti-Trump proxy-hate protests are generated and/or propagated by the media.

Wake up America, China’s eating your lunch. At home, progress keeps moving on in the private sector. GM just announced a breakthrough in battery technology that socialized industry can only fake. Elon Musk continues space exploration. And so it goes.

Get a life. Or are these divisive “protests” just a cabin-fever excuse to ignore COVID? The moral high ground is mushy.

Fred Stewart
Grand Junction

We’ve failed the greatness test

What made the Greatest Generation so great? It wasn’t just World War II. That tested their mettle, but their grit was created 12 years earlier with the onset of the Great Depression. That’s when our parents and grandparents learned to do without and make sacrifices for the common good. These are the qualities that gave them the resolve to prevail.

I hope the current generation doesn’t have to face a major economic catastrophe or a world war. We’ve had it too good for too long. Yes, there was the 2008 recession and Vietnam, but those were minor bumps in the road by comparison.

During today’s pandemic, many of us, particularly on the right, have whined about and resisted minor inconveniences like wearing masks and social distancing. Incredibly, they’ve made good sense health protocols a political issue. The right staunchly defends their “freedom” to infect others.
Recently, I’ve seen pictures of large groups of people in Beijing and Tokyo. They weren’t social distancing, that’s not part of the Asian culture, but every last one of them was wearing a mask. Their massive population has established a tradition of thinking collectively. We here in the West cling onto delusions of individualism.

We’ve already paid, and will pay dearly for this. The quarter million mark in deaths has been passed and we’re at an all-time high of 160,000 cases. The death rate will go down because of treatments like Remdesivir, but with the holidays coming up and people spending more time indoors, total deaths will soar. With that many cases, patients are going to die because of not enough ICU units.

The pandemic and climate change are two separate crises, but the similarities are striking. In both cases, we’re in so much trouble because we’ve turned a blind eye to science.

Our reaction to the pandemic bodes poorly for our ability to reverse the effects of climate change. We’re going to have to make sacrifices, take a financial hit, and forego modern conveniences. We need another Greatest Generation to come along.

Fred Malo Jr.
Carbondale

Trump’s golfing has cost taxpayers $140 million

With only about 4% of the world population, the U.S. continues to experience about 20% of the global deaths from COVID-19. Donald Trump’s role in this horrifying statistic has been clear.

He again confirmed his idiocy at the virtual G20 Leaders’ Summit, which this year prioritized the challenge of countering the global coronavirus pandemic. Making no reference to the facts of our pandemic situation or commitment to expand the availability of U.S. vaccines, Trump left to play golf while the other attendees were still speaking.

In August, 2016, Trump said, “I’m going to be working for you. I’m not going to have time to go play golf.” Just one of his 20,000+ documented false or misleading claims, this has been a costly one for us taxpayers. With transportation, Secret Service and Coast Guard costs, each of his trips to the golf course costs an average $660,000. Trump has hit the links 22% of the days he’s been in office. Our bill for his golf-playing is now more than $140 million.

Finally, we are nearly rid of the shyster Trump. It is none too soon.
We welcome Joe Biden and Kamala Harris —leaders who are already proving their aptitudes for leadership.

Annette Roberts-Gray
Carbondale

VIDEO: Our Living History part 13

This is the final installation of the Our Living History video series and focuses on the discovery and history of the Glenwood Hot Springs.

The Post Independent is partnering with the Glenwood Historical Society to bring a bi-weekly history video called Our Living History. Historical society executive director Bill Kight will take us back in time through Glenwood’s rich history. Each month will focus on a new theme ranging from famous gunfighter Doc Holliday to the days the pioneers and first settlers of the western frontier met the indigenous Utes head-on.

Wednesday letters: Arts Council, Mitsch Bush, Soto, Robinson, Wilhelm and Hanlon, wolves, and two-party system

The Glenwood Springs Arts Council is alive and well!

This year has brought about changes for all of us and for the Glenwood Springs Arts Council those changes have meant turning formerly face-to-face events into virtual events. You’ll find videos of our recent International Jazz Day 2020 and Real Folk — A virtual Folk Music Tribute Concert at glenwoodarts.org. While you’re there, discover what other arts organizations are doing to make art accessible during this challenging time.

As we continue to support the arts in our community, the popular fall Culinary Arts Festival is also a virtual gathering this year. Free for all to view online is a four-day celebration of local culinary arts featuring videos of six local chefs showcasing their masterpieces with a local “celebrity” adding comments. Purchasing tickets for the event will entitle ticket holders to a 10% discount at one of our featured establishments and will support our art scholarship fund. We hope that you will join us for the event. Thanks to all for your support of the arts.

Thelma Zabel
Board member, Glenwood Springs Arts Council

Vote for honesty, integrity, and sound governance

Diane Mitsch Bush is the hardest working, tireless and dedicated elected representative I’ve ever met, and deserves your vote for Congress. She does her research, listens to all sides of an issue and works to craft fair, workable and beneficial solutions to regional concerns. Her extensive experience in the Colorado Legislature prepared her to represent and fight for West Slope needs and values, understanding the complexity of Colorado water law, the challenges facing agriculture, the dire need for transportation and infrastructure investments. Diane Mitsch Bush has the education, experience and empathy we need in Congress to end the pandemic’s devastation to our economy and community health, to see real investments in the sorely neglected roads, airports and water infrastructure, and to improve the access to and cost of health care.

Her opponent, on the other hand, doesn’t even recognize our region’s diversity or challenges or offer policy solutions. She has only empty slogans to offer: “Freedom” from this or that. But what is she really offering? Freedom for rural hospitals to go bankrupt treating the uninsured after the Affordable Care Act is repealed? Freedom to be denied health insurance because of pre-existing conditions? Freedom to bankrupt Social Security under the guise of pandemic relief? Freedom to discriminate against those different from you, ethnically, sexually or by faith? Freedom to pollute the air we breathe, the water we drink? The freedom to ignore science, drought and our changing climate?

Our representative in Congress should work to deliver the goods, services and policies that will improve the quality of life, economy and environment for all West Slope residents, not just cater to the fantasies of QAnon and militia cultists. The choice is clear — vote for honesty, integrity, and sound governance. Vote Diane Mitsch Bush on your ballot this November

Rachel E. Richards
Former Pitkin County commissioner,
current Aspen City Council member

Soto, Robinson, Wilhelm and Hanlon best fit Garfield County

I am voting for Beatriz Soto and Leslie Robinson for Garfield Board of County Commissioners. I feel that the incumbents, John Martin and Mike Samson, no longer represent the needs of Garfield County and are out of touch with many of their constituents. This is illustrated by the fact that they spent $1.5 million to pay outside parties in their unsuccessful fight against oil and gas regulations set out in Proposition 181. They even footed the bill for the lawsuit on behalf of a coalition of nine counties. Imagine how these taxpayer dollars could have helped county residents, including children, with the economic crises of COVID-19. Beatriz and Leslie will bring much-needed fresh thinking to the BOCC. They will listen to constituents, be good stewards of taxpayer dollars and explore new ways to create jobs.

I am also voting for Colin Wilhelm for HD57. His opponent, Perry Will, wants to open businesses up and push against Gov. Jared Polis’ COVID-19 orders. He also wants to continue investment in the dying coal and natural gas industries. Colin Wilhelm wants to maintain pandemic social distancing and masking mandates, which have proven so effective. Wilhelm supports obtaining economic support for businesses from the state and looking for large capital projects to create new jobs.

Karl Hanlon has my vote in the SD8 race against Bob Rankin. Karl will fight for our health care, water and public lands. Bob has done an OK job in the Colorado House and Senate, but Karl will better represent the citizens of our district. In a recent debate on KDNK, the question whom the candidates supported for CD3 was asked. Bob laughed and said he hopes Lauren Boebert will settle into the position in Congress. Really? Settle in? Boebert has made it clear that she is tired of compromise, so what makes you think she will settle in? Karl chose the highly qualified Diane Mitsch Bush.

Please vote with me for the candidates that will best represent Garfield County residents: Beatriz Soto, Leslie Robinson, Colin Wilhelm and Karl Hanlon.

Connie Overton
Carbondale

Wilhelm is consistent, involved, accessible

Recently, KDNK scheduled a debate between Colin Wilhelm, candidate for HD 57 and Perry Will, the current representative. Except Will didn’t attend, claiming he forgot the obligation. I heard that he held a campaign gathering in Silt, instead.

This seems like an instance of Mr. Will being unable to keep his schedule straight. What about keeping his views straight? Will was appointed (not elected) in 2019, and during that session, was handed four different bills to increase access/funding for mental health care in Colorado. He voted against them all. In 2020, after Wilhelm announced his run for the representative seat, with mental health care access and funding as a paramount issue of his campaign, Will seemingly changed his tune, voting in favor of all mental health care bills this year.

He was given a “Heroes in Health” award this year, but Will vehemently opposes universal health care. It’s troubling how against this issue he is, considering that as a state employee for 40 years he’s had state-provided health insurance. He has it, but he wants to keep his constituents from accessing it. Will believes the way to provide “affordable” care to Coloradans is to fund hospitals. More hospitals would be excellent, but are they as useful if no one can afford to get care from them?

Perry Will’s campaign website includes little information, only a short bio and a “donate” button. His challenger, Wilhelm, has spent the past year openly discussing his plans and ideas with the residents of our whole district, constantly asking for input about what issues matter to us. Many have learned about his platform on his website or his comprehensive Facebook page, and by contacting him directly for a prompt response.
Wilhelm cares about mental health of Coloradans, access to affordable health care, increased funding for educators, and diversifying energy industries in a responsible way. He has never wavered on these issues. When you cast your ballots, think hard about who is consistent, involved, accessible and in the best interest of our region.

Cait Kennet
Glenwood Springs

Wolves may make matters worse

I can understand why some voters may be tempted to vote for Proposition 114, reintroducing wolves to western Colorado. Our world is a mess. Climate chaos has brought us late spring freezes, followed by excruciatingly hot windy summers combined with droughts not seen in the past 800 years. Our valley’s river, the Crystal River, is virtually dry. Fires roar over parched ground and their smoke makes being outside hazardous. Population growth has overwhelmed our highways, consumed much of our open space and made finding solitude increasingly difficult for humans and wildlife. On top of all this, a pandemic races around the globe, limiting social interactions and devastating our economy.

Faced with all this turmoil, voters want to do anything, and wolf proponents claim wolves will magically restore the balance. Unfortunately, wolves may only make matters worse. Our deer and elk herds are in decline and are not having enough fawns or calves survive to keep their populations sustainable. Our iconic aspen forests are stressed from drought, not overgrazing by elk. Ranchers are suffering from the multinational meat packing conglomerates keeping prices for their livestock below break even prices. They are going broke working around the clock to run 250 head where their grandfathers made money with a few dozen.

Wolves will only make these situations worse. Wolves cannot restore a world dominated by humans. The ecosystem of western Colorado is unrecognizable from what existed when wolves were last here. Wolves will not and cannot bring back the Colorado that existed in the 1900s. They can however decimate our declining wildlife and force ranchers to sell out. Much of our open space will be lost forever. Vote “no” on 114.

Bill Fales
Carbondale

We The People need to take back America

The current “Do Nothing Wealthy 1% Congress” and the Trump House has caused irreversible harm to the American people by stalling on the second stimulus package. The economy cannot recover back to any normal level due to their never-ending partisan gridlock. America will have millions unemployed for a long time. Millions of businesses cannot reopen. When this election is over, let this be a lesson to the American people. The Democratic and Republican parties have destroyed this country. We The People need to take back America from the two major parties who have governed America illegally for decades. We need to put the Democrat and Republican parties in our rearview mirrors permanently.

“Our children and grandchildren will remember this time in American history when our national leaders failed to help the American people.” This is a quote from my new book, “America’s New Revolution.”

Randy Fricke
New Castle

Garfield commissioner candidates address county’s housing needs

Garfield County’s hot housing market has a noticeable gap when it comes to an adequate inventory of homes for median income earners to buy or rent, and even fewer options for lower-income families.

How to address that shortfall was a topic of questioning at last week’s Garfield County commissioner candidates forum sponsored by the Glenwood Springs Association of Realtors.

Responses from the candidates ran the gamut from pursuing government partnerships with private developers to bring more affordable housing to the county to offering developer incentives and working with low-income housing developers.

Asked about their impression of the current housing market and what ways they would work to affect that, incumbents and challengers alike were all well aware of the situation.

“The market is strong, and if you need to sell a house this is the perfect time to sell,” District 3 Commissioner Mike Samson said.

But cost and availability for the middle income categories continues to be a problem, especially on the east end of the county but also impacting west-end buyers, Samson said.

“We’ve been involved with a lot of things as a county, CHFA being one of them,” he said of the Colorado Housing Finance Authority, which helps buyers secure loans.

Samson noted that he was the one to urge fellow Commissioners John Martin and Tom Jankovsky to participate in a regional housing needs assessment that was completed a couple of years ago.

“It told us that we need to work more extensively to make it possible for people to afford housing,” Samson said. “And not just single-family housing, but all kinds of housing.”

Samson’s opponent on the Nov. 3 ballot, Leslie Robinson, noted that the COVID restrictions on businesses took a lot of people out of their offices and into their homes to conduct business.

“Working remotely is not only productive, but cost effective,” Robinson said. “I predict we are going to get slammed by home buyers as a result.”

That will put pressure on would-be local buyers, who may not have the same level of income to compete with the higher price points resulting from that, she said.

“Like some of our neighboring counties, we need to look at public-private partnerships,” Robinson said. “We need more inventory of homes under $300,000. That can be done with government and private enterprise working together.

“Silt has been experimenting with small homes, and that can be appealing to individuals, but it’s not a housing solution for families,” she said, also adding that short-term vacation rentals are removing some homes from the rental market.

Issues & Answers Forum

Transmisión en español: Puede encontrar una traducción al español en tiempo real en Zoom.

When: 5 p.m. Thursday

Where: Watch live on the Post Independent’s Facebook page or at postindependent.com/elections. A real-time Spanish translation can be found on Zoom.

Who: Candidates for Garfield County commissioner, state House District 57, state Senate District 8 and state Board of Education; plus information on several state and local ballot questions.

The forum is presented by the Glenwood Springs Chamber Resort Association, Glenwood Springs Post Independent and Colorado West Broadcasting (KMTS). The event will be recorded and translated in Spanish.

Submit candidate questions in advance here.

District 2 incumbent Commissioner John Martin rattled off a few statistics, saying that with approximately 22,000 housing units in the county, a population of around 60,000, a growth rate of 1.4%, average household income of about $74,000 and an average home price of $350,000, it is a concern.

The county commissioners have built certain provisions and incentives into the county’s comprehensive plan and land-use development code “giving affordable housing units priority,” he said.

“We also encourage large rentals or development of 100 or more homes to be located within municipalities, or extremely close to those areas, simply because of the cost of utilities and also transportation costs,” Martin said.

“We want to work with the cities to make sure the green space, those areas between municipalities, are not filled up with that kind of development,” he said. “That can be a very challenging position to take.”

District 2 challengers Beatriz Soto and Brian Bark said the county’s incentives haven’t done enough.

“We continue to have very low inventory, especially attainable housing for middle-class families and entry-level homebuyers,” Soto said.

An influx of cash purchases during the COVID crisis hasn’t helped matters for locals, she said.

“That is pushing out opportunities for people who live here locally to go through traditional means to buy a home, because cash offers usually go faster,” Soto said. “We are going to need to continue to promote more housing, but it has to be smart growth … building denser and closer to the municipalities.”

Bark was unable to answer the question directly during the Zoom video forum due to internet problems, but provided a response in a follow-up email to the Post Independent.

It’s a matter of finding ways to build lower-cost houses, or increasing wages, Bark said.

“Apparently, the county is already offering incentives and bonuses to developers, but that doesn’t seem to be working,” adding that it’s not solely the job of elected officials to address the affordable housing issue.

“It’s not a how can I, it’s a how can we (affect housing),” Bark said. “I can bring ideas to the table, and we as the board will work on those ideas.

“Again, it goes back to economics,” he said. “We need to bring to Garfield County higher paying, stable sources of revenue. Currently, the higher paying jobs are going to skilled workers or those in a declining industry. These people don’t seem to be having a hard time purchasing higher costing homes.

“We need to bring in higher paying jobs for the unskilled/ semi-skilled workers where they can make a decent wage and have room for advancement within that company or field. … We as the Board of Commissioners need to actively seek out those businesses to move to Garfield County, rather than wait for them to find us.”

jstroud@postindependent.com

Roaring Fork Schools working to solve issues with Glenwood High’s HVAC system before student return next month

Issues with the heating, ventilation and cooling mechanical system at Glenwood Springs High School is one hurdle the school district needs to clear before students can return next month.

The Roaring Fork School District has been installing ionization units within the HVAC systems in buildings from Glenwood to Basalt to provide cleaner airflow and hopefully help prevent disease spread, including that of COVID-19, when students begin returning in larger numbers next week.

The district is slated to begin the pivot from online distance learning to providing the option of in-person instruction in phases, starting with kindergarten through third grade next week.

After that, grades five through eight would return to the classroom the week of Oct. 26, followed by high schools on Nov. 2.

To get there, though, facilities managers have been working through challenges related to some of the newer HVAC systems, including the one at GSHS.

“There is a history of frustration about the comfort level in that building, with it being too hot or too cold, not enough air flow, and a lack of operable windows,” Superintendent Rob Stein said.

“We have set some standards with the ionization, filtration and air circulation, and have said we will not open those buildings if we don’t meet those standards,” he said.

The district in 2013 reached a $500,000 court settlement with contractors related to the HVAC system that was installed when the high school underwent a major expansion and renovation between 2005 and 2008.

The HVAC system was included as part of the larger $30 million project, which was funded as part of a voter-approved mill levy and bond issue in 2004.

According to the lawsuit filed in February 2012, district officials were convinced to install what was billed as a “highly efficient” displacement system at GSHS and other facilities in Carbondale, instead of a conventional HVAC system.

The Glenwood project involved a new, two-level classroom wing, theater, music room, gymnasium, cafeteria and administrative offices. Renovated sections of the old high school building were incorporated into the design.

Soon after the building was completed and the 2008-09 school year began, problems related to the heating and cooling system surfaced.

Those challenges have returned as the district works to install the necessary facility upgrades as part of its coronavirus-response. Much of those improvements are being made using federal CARES Act dollars that were made available to schools to deal with COVID-relates expenses.

“We have commissioned a study to diagnose the problems and have already begun extensive repairs,” Stein said in memo before the school board for its Wednesday evening meeting. “Adequate airflow, filtration and ionization must be in place before welcoming large numbers of students into our buildings.”

GSHS, at roughly 1,000 students, is by far the biggest high school in the district, compared to about 500 students at Basalt High and 400 students at Roaring Fork High School in Carbondale.

Aside from the mechanical systems, simply managing that many students — although a certain percentage are likely to opt to remain on a distance learning plan — is challenging in and of itself, Stein said.

The larger “Return to In-Person Learning” plan will be a major topic of discussion when the school board convenes at 5:30 p.m. Wednesday, Oct. 14 for its regular twice-monthly meeting, held remotely via Zoom.

Included in the discussion will be a recommendation about monitoring risk levels for disease spread in the community ahead of and after the school reopenings.

The board is also slated to take action on temporary agreements for the 2020-21 school year for certified staff, also related to what will continue to be a mix of in-person and distance learning for Roaring Fork District students and teachers.

jstroud@postindependent.com

School meals distribution expands to weekends, adds pickup locations

Beginning Oct. 21, the Roaring Fork School District plans to expand its free student meal program to include meals for seven days a week, including new school pickup sites in Glenwood Springs, Carbondale and Basalt.

Curbside pickup is to be available at Glenwood Springs High, Carbondale Middle and Basalt Middle schools from 4:30-6:30 p.m. on Wednesdays, and from 9 a.m.-12 p.m. on Saturdays. 

The program is for families with children 18 years or younger, according to a Tuesday news release from the school district.

“Parents and guardians may pick up free meal packs without their children being present,” the release states. “There is a limit of one seven-day meal pack per child, per week.”

Each of the seven-day meal packs includes seven breakfast and lunch entrees, vegetables, fruit and milk. Families are advised to stay with their cars and not enter buildings during curbside meal pickup service. 

“The curbside pickup service is being offered in response to community feedback that a more efficient and convenient meal pick-up option was needed,” the release states.

The Roaring Fork Schools will continue to provide free breakfast and lunch on weekdays to any child 18 or younger through May 2021, using its bus meal delivery systems and direct delivery to on-campus students.

Anyone who is unable to access meals at the scheduled distribution points can sign up for free home delivery through the district’s Family Services Department by calling 970-384-9500, or emailing familyservices@rfschools.com.

Visit www.rfschools.com or call 970-384-6007 for more information.

Distribución de paquetes con alimentos para 7 días comienza el 21 de octubre

A partir del 21 de octubre, las Escuelas Roaring Fork ofrecerán paquetes con alimentos para 7 días gratis para ser recogidos en las aceras de la escuela preparatoria de Glenwood Springs y las escuelas secundarias de Carbondale y Basalt, todos los miércoles y sábados. La recolección de alimentos en estas escuelas se llevará a cabo los miércoles de 4:30 pm a 6:30 pm y los sábados de 9 am a 12 pm. 

Este programa es para familias con niños menores de 18 años. Los padres y tutores pueden recoger los paquetes de alimentos gratuitos sin que sus hijos estén presentes. Hay un límite de un paquete de alimentos para 7 días por niño, por semana. Cada paquete de 7 días incluye: siete desayunos y almuerzos, verduras, frutas y leche. Se recomienda a las familias que permanezcan en sus coches y no entren en los edificios durante el servicio de recolección de alimentos. 

El servicio de recolección de alimentos se ofrece en respuesta a la opinión de la comunidad de que se necesitaba una opción de recolección de alimentos más eficiente y conveniente.

Las Escuelas Roaring Fork continuarán proporcionando desayuno y almuerzo gratuitos a todos los niños menores de 18 años hasta diciembre 2020 mediante la entrega de alimentos en autobús y a todos los estudiantes en el campus. Si no puede acceder los alimentos en nuestros puntos de distribución programados, por favor regístrese para nuestro servicio de entrega a domicilio gratuito a través del departamento de servicios familiares llamando al 970-384-9500 o enviando un correo electrónico a familyservices@rfschools.com.

Para más información, visite www.rfschools.com o llame al 970-384-6007.

Garfield County’s COVID case uptick in line with upward trend across state, nationally, even globally

A spike in new coronavirus cases in Garfield County over the past two weeks mirrors trends across Colorado and around the country, public health officials said Monday.

Some of that can still be attributed to end-of-summer social activities going back to Labor Day weekend last month, Garfield County Public Health Director Yvonne Long said during her update to county commissioners.

But, it also likely has to do with general mental fatigue around the various restrictions that remain in place and the fact that people are now moving indoors more with the cooler fall weather, she said.

“What we’re seeing is not out of line with the rest of the state and country, as well as throughout the world…,” Long said. “We all know, and are right there beside everybody who is (feeling) fatigue of the situation and this disease.”

As a result, people tend to let their guard down when out in public, while out socializing, and even around the house, she said.

The most effective means of controlling disease spread is still regular hand-washing, limiting contact with people, social distancing when around others, and wearing a mask while out in public and especially indoors, Long said.

Since Oct. 5, Garfield County has seen 49 new COVID-19 cases; up from 29 during the prior week, county health officials reported.

The county has now topped 1,000 cases total since the outbreak began in March, and has seen its 14-day incidence rate climb from less than 80 per 100,000 people at one point last week to 139.9 per 100,000 on Monday.

That moved the county from the “comfortable” level of risk for that particular indicator to “cautious,” according to the county’s data tracking to determine the level of risk for disease spread.

Two measures remain at the “very high” risk level for the county:

• Community spread — where more than 50% of people who’ve tested positive say they aren’t sure where or from whom they contracted the disease.

• Days before seeking testing — where fewer than 50% of people are seeking testing within 48 hours of showing symptoms.

At the same time, the county’s hospitalization rate (fewer than three per week as of the latest hospital stats), and a test positivity rate of 3.4% remain in the comfortable range.

“Over the past seven to nine months, the medical world has learned so much about the best ways to treat this,” Long said. The result is fewer hospitalizations and shorter stays when people are hospitalized, she said.

The high percentage of community spread and the time people are waiting to get tested after becoming symptomatic is a concern.

The sooner people get tested — the recommendation is within 48 hours of showing symptoms — is crucial to effectively controlling disease spread, said Garfield Public Health Specialist Mason Hohstadt, referring to contact tracing efforts and providing information for people to effectively isolate and quarantine.

Hohstadt said the majority of new cases over the past week are still showing up in young adults and “working-age” people, primarily ages 20-29 (16%) and 30-59 (60%). School-aged children and teenagers represent 11% of the new cases, and 16% and 9%, respectively, were in the higher-risk 60-69 and 70-79 age groups.

The availability and the time it takes in Garfield County to receive a test and then to get results also continues to be a challenge, Long said.

Garfield County does not have a rapid-testing site, as does Mesa County and Front Range locations, which are paid for by the state.

Community testing is available through Mountain Family Health Centers, she said.

“We do still have that lag time there,” Long said. “But if someone thinks they are symptomatic, or that they have been exposed to someone who has symptoms, they should not wait 48 hours,” she said.

jstroud@postindependent.com

Glenwood crews knock down brush fire above Walmart area in short order

Glenwood Springs firefighters made quick work of extinguishing a brush fire in the homeless encampment area on the hillside above South Blake Avenue Sunday morning, as erratic winds threatened to blow it out of control.

The Glenwood Fire Department was notified of the fire at 11:06 a.m., and responded to find a quarter-acre fire on a steep slope of oak brush and pinyon juniper with high spread potential, according to a news release issued Sunday afternoon.

The fire was extinguished within 40 minutes, according to the release. 

“Even though the weather is cooling, we remain in Stage 1 Fire Restrictions due to the high fire danger,” incident commander Harlan Nimmo said in the release. “It is important everybody continues to use extreme caution and adhere to fire restrictions.” 

Glenwood Springs remains under Stage 1 fire restrictions. Details can be found at glenwoodfire.com, under the ‘Current Fire Restrictions’ tab.

Two engines, an ambulance and a command vehicle with eight firefighters responded to the incident. 

Assisting were the Carbondale & Rural Fire Protection District, Colorado River Fire Rescue and interagency crews. The Glenwood Springs Police Department as well as Garfield County Sheriff’s Office also responded.

“This was likely a human-caused fire that occurred near a homeless camp on private property just outside of city limits,” according to the release. The Garfield County Fire Investigation team is investigating the incident. 

No injuries were reported at the time the news release was sent.

Roaring Fork Schools eye Nov. 2 target date for high school classroom return

Roaring Fork District high schools in Glenwood Springs, Carbondale and Basalt could open to in-person learning on Nov. 2, under a recommendation before the local school board next week.

In a memo to the board for its Oct. 14 meeting, Roaring Fork Schools Superintendent Rob Stein said high schools have begun planning to open that week to in-person learning for those students and families who want that option.

The district would need to remain in the Safer at Home Level 2, or better, for determining the risk level for spread of COVID-19 in order to proceed with that plan, Stein said during a Friday interview with the Post Independent.

The same is true for the planned return to in-person classroom instruction for kindergarten through third grade on Oct. 19, and for grades four through eight on Oct. 26, as previously announced by the district.

The Roaring Fork Schools have been operating mostly under a distance learning model with online classes since the beginning of the school year in August as a precaution given continued concerns about coronavirus infection rates.

Stein’s recommendation regarding a classroom return for high schools comes as an organized parent group, Roaring Fork Families for Choice, has been pushing hard for a timeline to allow high school students back into the classroom.

A coalition of local pediatricians also penned a letter to the Roaring Fork and Aspen school districts recently urging a managed approach to beginning face-to-face classroom instruction, saying it’s as much a public health concern for children as the concern for disease spread.

Among the arguments from parents is that other neighboring school districts, including Garfield Re-2, Garfield District 16 and Eagle County Schools, have had an in-person option since the start of the school year, and the Roaring Fork District should, as well.

“As part of the planning process, we are conducting structured interviews with high schools around the state that have resumed in-person learning under various models so that we can learn best practices from the field,” Stein writes in his memo to the school board. “We will also be reviewing the latest public health data on high schools and interviewing public health experts.”

Some groups of students have already been allowed back into school buildings, based on certain strict criteria.

“In-person services are currently being provided for targeted student populations, including subgroups of students who qualify for federal and state programs, at-risk students (as defined by the state), and students who lack internet access,” Stein explains.

The district’s alternative Bridges High School, located in Carbondale and with an enrollment of 80 students, plans to resume in-person learning at 50% capacity on Oct. 19, Stein also indicated in his memo.

To bring the other high schools along, a task force comprising school leaders and district instructional team members is gathering information and developing scenarios, he said.

Some of the considerations outlined in the memo include: 

  • Whether to pursue a hybrid or full-time model, based on most recent evidence about transmission risks for older adolescents.
  • Distance learning program for students who opt not to return to in-person learning.
  • Ensuring that HVAC systems and custodial practices are sufficient to accommodate large numbers of students. “One of our high schools has presented particular HVAC challenges,” Stein said of Glenwood Springs High School. “We have commissioned a study to diagnose the problems and have already begun extensive repairs.” The district has allocated $200,000 in federal CARES funding — part of a bigger $4 million package the district received — to facility upgrades related to the pandemic.
  • Adequate airflow, filtration, and ionization must be in place before welcoming large numbers of students into buildings.
  • Timeline to allow teacher and staff input into the planning process once the learning model has been determined; this will largely involve use of existing staff feedback and decision-making structures, including content teams and building leadership teams.
  • Opportunities for teachers and staff members to meet with health experts and to address questions about protective measures, HVAC, custodial and building hygiene. 
  • Transportation and food services feasibility options.
  • Surveys of families about their intentions to send students to school or stick with distance learning.

Stein also outlined changes in the way public health data is being used to make determinations about safely returning to classrooms.

Instead of using the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment’s Covid dial as the primary reference point, the district will now turn to multiple sources for advice, including local public health and medical experts, he said.

“As one local physician explained, to look only at the Covid dial is an oversimplification and we can’t put that much weight on it,” Stein wrote in his memo to the board. “In short, we cannot rely on the dial as the only set of indicators for triggering decisions in our schools.

“Rather than using the dial as our sole reference point, we will need to continue meeting regularly with our county public health departments, practicing physicians, and other health providers in our own community to seek their guidance. And, we will need to provide more opportunities for our teachers, staff, students, and parents to meet with health professionals and hear their advice about risk mitigation and safety precautions in our schools.”

The next Roaring Fork District school board meeting is slated for 5:30 p.m. Wednesday, Oct. 14 via Zoom. The public is welcome to log in and comment on the latest plans.

jstroud@postindependent.com