Parents and students pick up backpacks filled with school supplies at the central administration offices of Adams 12 school district in Thornton, August 21, 2020. (Kevin Mohatt, Special to The Colorado Sun)

Together with our fellow educators in local associations across Adams County, and the country, we are continuing to do what we do best: Educating and caring for the children of our communities. 

Over the course of the last 11 months, educators have been innovative, creative and dedicated to finding the best ways to provide high quality instruction in an ever-changing environment.  

While every one of us would prefer all students to be in our schools where they can participate in interactive lessons, work collaboratively with their peers, and receive the extra support they may need, the COVID-19 virus has forced us to “do school differently.”  Online instruction and hybrid schedules have created many challenges for students, families, and educators. 

Dave Lockley

However, just as when school is operating fully in-person, educators are going above and beyond, and the students who show up and participate, whether online or hybrid, are learning and growing.

Collaborating with our school and district leadership is nothing new for members of our professional organizations. Educators have always used their voices to improve the learning conditions for our students and teaching conditions for our colleagues. 

The past 11 months have been no different; the pandemic has required everyone to prioritize the health and safety of all employees, students, and their families.  What we have been able to accomplish together — Americans with Disabilities Act accommodations for at-risk staff, cohort and quarantine protocols, and access to appropriate and available personal protective equipment — has kept our educators, our students and our schools as safe as we could make them for the fall semester.  

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Although we were all hopeful that we could return to “normal” school for the second semester, the high community transmission rates and the shortage of vaccine availability will force us to follow the same health and safety protocols as first semester. 

This may, once again, create operational challenges to in-person learning that may force the closure of classrooms, schools, and perhaps districts.

Changes in the instructional delivery model have forced our communities to see first-hand the challenges educators have been facing due to the chronic underfunding of our school system. Classes so large that social distancing is not an option have required the creation of hybrid schedules.  

Also, a lack of substitute educators to cover for ill or quarantined educators has caused classrooms, schools, and entire districts to transition to remote learning with little or no warning.  

Trying to balance all of the existing needs in our schools with the additional requirements of PPE, added disinfecting and cleaning protocols, contact tracing, and remote learning has caused even more stress on an already overloaded system.  

In spite of all of these challenges, educators across Adams County continue to show up every day and serve their students to the very best of their ability. All of this is done in conjunction with working second jobs, taking care of their own children, nursing compromised or sick family members, taking additional classes to improve their craft, and serving on school and district committees as collaborative problem solvers. 

As educators, we will continue to work with our school districts to prioritize and ensure the health and safety of students and educators while creating the best learning and teaching conditions in each classroom, school, and district.

Educators have known all along what the pandemic has shown others. Our schools are not just the cornerstone of our democracy, but the cornerstone of our communities. 

Let us all continue to support each other through these challenges and be strong advocates for our profession, our students, and our schools. Better days are coming.

Dave Lockley is president of the District 12 Educators’ Association in the Adams 12 Five Star Schools. Other contributors to this essay: Trisha Ramsey, president of the School District 14 Classroom Teachers Association; Kathy Ruybal, president of the Brighton Education Association; Jason Gustafson, president of the Mapleton Education Association; and Fran Groff-Gonzales, president of the Westminster Education Association.

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Special to The Colorado Sun