Roaring Fork Schools soliciting daycare support to assist teachers with their own school-aged children
Carbondale Middle School teacher Krista Lasko wonders how she’ll be able to juggle her online class duties and make sure that her own two elementary school-aged children are also seen after when distance learning begins later this month.
She’s far from alone among Roaring Fork District teachers.
“We do have many of our teachers who have their own children in the schools, and especially a lot of younger kids,” said Lasko, who teaches Spanish and sixth-grade English Language Development at CMS.
“It’s super challenging, because we don’t know what to do,” she said as she was trying to enjoy the final carefree days of summer break on Friday. “I was just at the skatepark talking to some other teachers who have younger kids, and they just don’t even know at this point.”
The Roaring Fork School District is working on a possible solution for Lasko and other teachers who are in the same situation.
The district has issued a Request for Proposals from local childcare providers to make accommodations for children of teachers and other district employees so that they can return to work this coming week and prepare to launch the school year with distance learning on Aug. 17.
Superintendent Rob Stein said staff childcare will be critical for teachers to be able to provide a synchronous, or “live” class approach to distance learning for however long that’s necessary during the COVID-19 pandemic.
District schools in Glenwood Springs, Carbondale and Basalt have opted to begin the new school year with distance learning starting Aug. 17 until at least Sept. 21. A determination on whether students may return to classrooms after that time will be made in early September.
“Returning to work, especially in person, has implications for childcare for employees,” Stein said in a news release. “We heard earlier this summer that childcare must be a part of the solution for staff to return to work.”
Teachers and staff are encouraged to return to their classrooms and offices, when possible, Stein said. But that comes with an increased need for childcare.
Lasko said she’s eager to be back in her classroom, even if her students won’t be there in person to start the school year.
“I think I will be more productive if I’m in my classroom and have the resources I need,” she said.
In the spring, when the district implemented a less-formal version of online instruction, Lasko said she was able to conduct lessons from home while her husband, Jake, who was not working at the time, assisted their sons, Kaden and Tate, with their remote school work.
That won’t be possible this school year, as she plans to be in the classroom and Jake is back working. Kaden is entering the fourth grade, and Tate will be in second grade.
While teachers will be leading online classes in real time, Lasko said she still needs to rely on an adult to make sure her own kids get online with their classmates at the right time.
Stein agreed there’s a psychological advantage to having teachers physically in the classroom while teaching their students remotely, as long as they feel comfortable being in the school buildings.
“Students being able to see their teachers in the classroom, and teachers having access to learning materials, supplies, and visual supports, will make distance learning richer and more authentic,” he said. “In addition, having staff start working in schools and district spaces will help all of us prepare for more in-person learning and contact, which is our ultimate goal.”
A July survey of district staff found that daytime care will be needed for approximately 100 staff children.
To support that, the district intends to help coordinate and subsidize childcare for staff members who have children ages 5 to 12.
Depending on how much of the daycare cost the district is able to subsidize, there’s also a financial consideration, Lasko said.
“We do wonder how much of that we’re going to have to pay,” she said.
The district’s early childhood education programs will also be opening later this month to preschool-aged children of staff.
“We will be able to accommodate all staff who have registered their children in the program,” said Angie Davlyn, senior project manager for the district. “In addition, those programs may have extra spaces for children of other essential workers.”
To help teachers with their school-aged children, the district hopes to tap into what’s traditionally been a fairly limited supply of daycare options in the Roaring Fork Valley in recent years.
The district is seeking proposals from multiple daycare organizations in the region, from Silt to Aspen, that would be able to take on additional children in their existing programs, and also be equipped to support students in their remote online learning.
“The district is encouraging providers to respond with a proposal even if they only have a few available spaces,” according to the news release. “District leaders will then begin to coordinate placement children in the locations that are a best fit, programmatically and geographically.”
Questions about the request for proposals can be directed to Davlyn at email@example.com. Any proposals received by Wednesday are to be immediately reviewed and contracts will be awarded on a rolling basis until all needed spaces are filled, she said.
There will be a required orientation for students and families the first week of school, from Aug. 17-21, during which training for online platforms and resources, as well as strategies for successful distance learning, are to be discussed, Stein said.
He also acknowledged that daycare needs are a broader concern for all district parents, not just teachers who have school-aged children. The orientation week is also designed to help them find solutions to juggling work schedules with home learning, he said.
“We will provide training sessions for anyone who is supporting distance learning, using relevant parent orientation materials,” Stein said in a separate email response. “We are working with partner organizations to schedule those training sessions with their staff and volunteers … and for general participation.”
Davlyn said the district does not want to displace students already enrolled in existing daycare programs, and will only fill any open spots that are available.
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