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Opinion Columns

Opinion: Let’s strengthen families and school communities during this crisis

As a high school counselor, mom, educator and president of the Colorado Education Association, representing 39,000 educators across the state, we know this is an unprecedented time with school closures. 

In this time of uncertainty, the members of CEA remain more committed than ever to our core mission: Educators across Colorado are taking the lead, so every student thrives.

We’re reminded now more than ever of the importance of public education and our schools. They are spaces for inspiration, learning, friendship and hubs of social activities and athletics. Schools are at the very center of our communities.

Amie Baca-Oehlert (Photo by Ellen Jaskol/handout)

Our top priority is ensuring the well-being of students and families in this uncharted territory. As we enter this new digital online learning environment, there will be opportunities and challenges.

We are committed to helping educators navigate this changing era to better serve their students. For instance, we are providing free training for teachers on digital learning through our professional development platform, COpilot

We’ve already seen countless examples of educators going above and beyond for their students in so many ways. We’ve seen educators who, in less than 24 hours, pulled together food programs for students who not only rely on our public schools for knowledge, but also for nutrition. 

I’ve spoken with support staff who are going into closed schools to deep clean and disinfect so buildings and classrooms will be safe and clean when students can return.

COVID-19 IN COLORADO

The latest from the coronavirus outbreak in Colorado:

  • MAP: Cases and deaths in Colorado.
  • TESTINGHere’s where to find a community testing site. The state is now encouraging anyone with symptoms to get tested.
  • VACCINE HOTLINE: Get up-to-date information.

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Teachers are providing support and resources to parents for quality learning to continue at home. They are coming up with creative ways to check in on their students to ensure their emotional and mental health needs are met, too. My daughter’s second grade teacher set up a Zoom webinar to check in with the class and enable students to see their classmates.

This is a good time to remember all those at our schools who keep it running smoothly:  The cafeteria staff who keep the students fed, the janitors who keep it clean, the front office personnel, the nurses, counselors and bus drivers. They all play a critical part in creating the best learning environment possible.

As I reflect on this time as a parent, an educator and CEA president, the critical role of public schools and our service to the community has never been so apparent. Educators are concerned about the well-being of their students. They miss being in the classroom doing what they love most.

Many are struggling with the possible loss of the remainder of the school year and the potential cancellation of proms, basketball seasons and even graduation ceremonies. We remember that schools are so much more than just going to class, they are a cornerstone of community connection.

My best advice as an educator and a parent is to be positive and upbeat about these changes with your child. Setting the right tone is so important because children look to the adults in their lives for cues to interpret situations. The more you appear calm and embrace this new way forward, the more comfortable your student will feel. Educators are here to support you. 

READ: Colorado Sun opinion columnists.

There are always opportunities in a crisis. Use this time to take a more active role in your children’s learning and create a stronger bond with their educators.

Educators will make themselves available to students electronically to help with continued education — or just to talk. Know how to get in touch with your child’s educators and reach out for help and advice.

We have an opportunity to become stronger as families and as school communities. Kids need to feel that they have an important role. Help them understand that this is an unusual time and that we ALL need to pitch in to get through it. Colorado’s educators care about your children and we are taking the lead, so every student thrives.

Amie Baca-Oehlert is a high school counselor and president of the Colorado Education Association.