Roaring Fork School District looks to assess pandemic learning gaps |

Roaring Fork School District looks to assess pandemic learning gaps

District also announces new principal at Crystal River Elementary

Aimee Brockman hired as new principal for Crystal River Elementary School in Carbondale.

The pandemic poses a multitude of challenges to the Roaring Fork School District, but one they need to evaluate further is time lost in the classroom.

Rick Holt, Chief Academic Officer for RFSD, addressed this issue in last week’s board meeting. Holt said assessing the student learning gaps from this past year will require time and resources. Post-pandemic, the information will still be helpful in the district’s decision-making for the future.

“That is watching to make sure that we’ve effectively back-filled that gap and keeping an eye on that. So that means tracking student performance in a way that helps students recognize where they’ve had successes and recognizing where they need more support and ensuring that staff provides that,” Holt said.

Superintendent Rob Stein backed Holt’s approach and reminded board members that collecting student data doesn’t always have to be done through standardized testing. There were questions about if this project would delay lessons students still needed to complete, but Stein said figuring out what topics or student groups were most affected by learning gaps needs to be the district’s top priority before this school year closes out.

Data is that catch-all word for all this different information about student learning or

“We’re asking each school to have one strategic priority and this is it. … We hope it will be a sustained effort. …It’s good practice with or without a pandemic. So this is not just an investment in pandemic recovery, this is high-leverage investment in how we can better support our students.” Stein said.

The district is still waiting to hear on how their federal funding will be affected for this coming school year, but the USDA announced last week that the waiver for free school meals will be extended through Sept. 30.

Nathan Markham, Chief Financial Officer for the district, said the district operating at a deficit this year was something that hasn’t happened for quite some time. He added that while withdrawn students did affect the funding, the state had decreased per-pupil funding by 5% this year, a factor that was outside of the district’s control.

“This year it was really a focus on what we should protect. And it was really protecting staffing and programming which really go hand in hand. You need staff to run programs. … There were no layoffs this year. We did not reduce staff and that was really our goal,” Markham said.

Federal funding should be announced sometime in April, but it was delayed last year and Markham said there is a chance that may happen again for 2021. However, because of the district’s healthy financial budgeting in the past, Markham said operating at a deficit will be difficult but not impossible.

“Our budget situation is not ideal … (but) the challenge we have is not insurmountable. … Years of fiscal responsibility in our district has paid off. We do have a healthy fund balance. … they help us make it through these times without really drastic cuts to our programming and staffing,” Markham said.

Aimee Brockman new principal at Carbondale’s Crystal River Elementary

The current Assistant Principal of Crystal River Elementary School was hired to step into the role as Principal for the 2021-2022 school year, a press release stated.

Aimee Brockman started working within RFSD back in 2003 as a teacher for Basalt Middle School and has worked for Carbondale schools since 2011. She also has a personal tie to CRES because both her children, now in 5th and 8th grade, also attended there.

“I just have found so many opportunities to learn and to grow into this role. And I found some great professional relationships here and made great connections with the students and family community as well,” Brockman said.

Brockman said her main goal as principal will be to improve two-way feedback between faculty and the parents of students. She said while the intentions of the district come from a good place when it comes to matters of equity, inequity remains and she’s looking to close the gaps in student success between demographics in her new role.

“I really am wanting to capture this idea that it is our responsibility to learn more and disrupt the predictable gap in achievement that we see between student groups, and the data tells us we’re not doing that as well as we could,” Aimee said.

As a first-generation college student, Brockman said she knows the value of public education and wants all her students to have the same opportunities to succeed. When Brockman looked back at the past school year, dominated by COVID-19, she said she realized how important collaboration is between all staff members, and that there’s no right moment to start a project or begin changes within the school system so it’s better to just get started as soon as possible.

“I think we’ve all really earned you can’t wait for the conditions to be right or to be able to be certain about things before you can jump in and really get started. I think that we’ve learned to be able to just jump in and do it without that certainty.”

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