Skip to Main Content

A Message from the CSS Leadership Team: Looking Ahead to 2020-2021 & Reflecting on e-Learning

May 07, 2020
Dear CSS Families,

Thank you for celebrating the Head’s Holiday last Friday. We hope you and your students enjoyed the day off from academics. With a wave and honk parade on campus, we celebrated a brief return to some semblance of community, and homemade chocolate chip cookies were the perfect antidote for the stress and isolation many of us have felt in recent weeks. The procession of cars, heartfelt signs, and senior tributes - all at a safe distance - were a beautiful sight and a testament to the grit, resolve, and true Kodiak spirit of our students, teachers, and parents alike. If you were unable to join us, please click here to view our parade photos on social media.

As we forge our way through uncertain times, we want to reflect on the trail we have blazed together. The last six weeks of e-Learning at CSS have been challenging. And they have taken their toll, albeit in different ways, on our families and faculty and staff. First, we would like to acknowledge that we as a community did not ask for this. Second, our shift to e-Learning was an immediate and necessary response to an event that can understandably be described as a crisis, as coveted time with teachers, colleagues, and friends was snatched away. Lastly, we also recognize that our implementation has not been perfect. Transitions of this nature are uncomfortable by definition, but we are proud of our rapid and increasingly cohesive evolution, and we are committed to further progression.

The CSS Leadership Team has devoted a great deal of time the last few weeks to planning and re-planning the 2020-2021 school year from multiple perspectives and reflecting on lessons learned from recent weeks. Below are some critical announcements and reflections.
We are hoping and planning to welcome students and teachers to campus in August, and we have enhanced our capacity for hygiene stations, temperature checks, and adequate social distance on campus (as these will likely be very appropriate requirements for all schools and workplaces). In the event that there are significant restrictions, the Leadership Team has been designing multiple programmatic and schedule hybrids (that merge online and on-campus instruction) to ensure that we can educate our students and deliver the mission with both agility and substance. This includes our ongoing commitment to CSS’s signature programs and academic offerings for the 2020-2021 school year.

Major Dates Calendar
CSS’s roadmap for the 2020-2021 school year will be released soon. We are committed to as much programmatic continuity as possible, and we will make decisions on program elements, schedules, and venues depending on guidance from local, state, and federal officials. Parents should expect details on times, locations, and specifics throughout the year as routinely communicated through ROAR or Division Directors. Thank you for your grace and latitude as we strive to maximize the safe implementation of our educational and community goals.

Academic Schedules
In Middle School and Upper School, teachers are currently revising course descriptions for next year’s academic offerings and making changes to textbooks and materials to adjust to a potential hybrid or blended learning experiences in case this is needed next year. CSS will be offering its full catalog of courses, including all scheduled advanced and AP classes. Course descriptions and sign-ups for the 2020-2021 school year are scheduled for release next week.

In the Children’s School, teachers will deliver a full academic load with quality co-curricular instruction and continue to supplement each student’s learning experience.

Signature Programs
Our signature programs - including Fall Adventure, Colorado Expedition, Middle School Seminars (I, II, and III), Walkabout, and Upper School Experience-Centered Seminars - are integral to the CSS experience. We have invested a considerable amount of time designing ways to make them more attuned to key goals and compatible with social distancing restrictions. Ann Petit, Director of Student Program, will be communicating directly with Upper School families in the next two weeks to share the topics and timeframe for Experience-Centered Seminar announcements and student signups. This week, Athletic Director Vicki Vaughan will communicate with CSS families about the most recent updates from CHSAA (Colorado High School Activities Association) and share some training plans to make sure Kodiak student athletes are building fitness in this time away from school.

Last week, CSS hit pause on its weekly feedback survey for e-Learning. There has been much to celebrate as our programs compare very favorably to local educational alternatives. We have been sifting through the data and identifying terms that need clarifying and areas of growth. These are outlined below.

Synchronous vs Asynchronous Learning
Feedback from each week revealed that connection is by far the most powerful thread that needs to be prominently woven throughout our day-to-day instruction. We recognize the potential for increased synchronous instructional time, not only to support the human connection, but also to facilitate and drive active learning. We are also balancing student attention levels, which vary by grade level, and planning to spend additional professional development time for our teachers to ensure there is consistent implementation.

Classwork & Homework
We have noted some reflections in the surveys expressing the sentiment that there is too much homework. While this is certainly a valid concern, we ask you to remember that if your student was in school from 8:00 a.m. to 3:15 p.m. every day, they would complete some of their core academic material in class with peers and the assistance of teachers. Our teachers rarely lecture for long periods of time at any level in the school. In the e-Learning framework, some of the work that is completed at home functions more like classwork and other assignments are more in line with the typical homework model, but there is tremendous variety within these categories. Our goal is to have all students proceeding at their proper developmental zones with regular check-ins from their instructors. This is the best way to keep them from falling behind or becoming a passive presence on lengthy video calls.

5-Day vs 6-Day Schedule (Middle and Upper School)
We recognize that the change in the daily schedule was a significant change for families. We designed our current e-schedule in order to optimize teaching and learning while minimizing the impact that extensive online exposure could have on students. Planning was the result of research gathered from schools near and far, including early adopters of e-Learning best practices. Given teachers had only two weeks to prepare what on average takes six months to fully implement, we felt a change in schedule would provide more time for preparation, provide greater flexibility to meet individual family schedules, allow for students to interact directly with their teachers through dedicated office hours, and create space for the timely completion of assignments. We have made some modifications along the way and will examine further changes for the 2020-2021 school year if e-Learning is necessary.

Duration of Classes
Similar to the change in schedule, we determined the amount of time students would spend online in class based on a variety of educational resources and established best practices for online education. We understand that one size does not fit all and that this is a difficult balance to strike. In the end, we designed what we thought was in the best interest of the health and well-being of students and the shorter attention spans of our youngest audience members. The health, well-being, and safety of our students will remain an ongoing commitment, but as we grow more and more comfortable in this space, it is reasonable to expect changes in the 2020-2021 school year if e-Learning is needed.

Student Leadership & Community
Throughout this time of great change, we are very proud of our student leaders who have, with great creativity and heart, reached right through their screens to connect with their peers and drive school programs forward. Spirit days and the recently pioneered Middle School Community website are just a few examples. In Upper School, student leaders have worked to design and implement a new school-wide honor code that will soon be implemented and emphasizes our core value of integrity. Our National Honor Society students and Model UN students both recently used online formats to create conversation and celebrate academic achievement. Look for a revised version of Fiddler on the Roof (on the Quad!) this late summer, and Seniors are making plans for a social-distanced senior sunset in a few weeks. Bravo to our students for their resilience and independent thinking. They have made the most of these unexpected circumstances and have proven they are preparing for a truly dynamic world.

Summer Work
Summer is a coveted time for families to disconnect. Similar to school, summer is filled with reunions and traditions that are now facing considerable revision. As a school, we want to respect this time to unwind and are discussing how to maintain a healthy balance with academic preparations for August. Each division is currently monitoring the progress at each grade level and assembling the necessary materials to ensure there is limited academic atrophy between now and when we resume the 2020-2021 school year. Undoubtedly, summer will feel and look different for families, but we are far away from summer sessions or starting the school year earlier than historically calendared.

In closing, this remains new territory for all of us, and we have learned some valuable lessons as the choreography for school has changed. The first steps are awkward, if not painful. But we, with your help, are rising to the challenges and moving forward at a steady pace. Our teams are now hard at work to bring innovation and positive energy to our very important end-of-year ceremonies.

As always, thank you for entrusting The Colorado Springs School with the education of your children. Your feedback has been immensely helpful. We hear you and appreciate your partnership as we endeavor onward together, with grit and grace.


The Colorado Springs School’s Leadership Team

Aaron Schubach, Head of School
Nicole Goyette, Director of Middle and Upper School
Sam Gaudet, Associate Head of School
Joy Maguire-Parsons, Director of Admission
Jessica L. James, Director of Advancement and Communication
Jody Bates Bliss, Director of Children’s School
Vicki Vaughan, Athletic Director
Ron Marko, Chief Financial Officer