April 20, 2020
Dear Ospreys,

Due to the coronavirus pandemic, schools across the country are making difficult choices about whether or not to have students return to campus before the end of the school year. Some are awaiting directives from state or federal entities, while others are making independent, community-based decisions. In Colorado, at least 24 school districts have closed for in-person learning through the end of the school year, including Bayfield, Ouray and Rico locally .  

After consulting with public health officials, our Board of Directors and our staff, we have decided that the time has come for us to make the extremely difficult decision that we will not reopen our campus for regular classes for the remainder of the 2019-20 school year.
As with our choice to move to pass/fail grading for the semester , we anticipate that this decision will be met with a range of feelings, including disappointment, sadness, relief and gratitude. However, we are confident that proceeding in this direction is in the best interest of our students, staff, families and community.

What key values and information guided our decision-making?
The most important values that guided our decision-making process included:

  • care for the wellbeing of our students, staff and families
  • an unwavering commitment to providing engaging education
  • a desire to contribute to the greater good

Our primary concern is for the health and safety of our students and staff . We have weighed the risks and benefits and believe that keeping students from returning to campus for the remainder of the school year will help control further spread of COVID-19. With limited resources such as hospital beds, ventilators, personal protective equipment and testing, keeping our school community home helps health care workers, emergency responders and vulnerable populations stay safe. The projection for local timing of the surge in cases of coronavirus is a moving target, but data indicates that it will now come our way in May. It’s just too soon to safely return to gathering in person.

We also believe that making this decision now, rather than waiting any longer, will allow our students, staff and families to adjust and make plans for closing out the school year with clarity in place. While it is very sad indeed to let go of the hope of seeing each other in person before the end of the school year, we can now turn our attention to finishing classes remotely while re-envisioning our end-of-year events and activities, ensuring that we are doing our absolute best to celebrate our seniors and maintain our strong school culture.

How will the decision impact AHS programs and events?
Remote teaching and learning for all classes will continue through the end of the year and Transitional Presentations of Learning (TPOLs) will be revamped to provide meaningful, reflective experiences that can happen remotely.

The last day of school for the 2019-20 school year will now by Friday, May 29 . With no holiday on April 17 and the cancelation of our professional development day scheduled for May 1, our final day of the school year shifted from Thursday, June 4 to Tuesday, June 2. We have decided to close the school year on Friday, May 29 for all students, shortening the year by two instructional days. With the absence of snow days this year, this seemed to be the best path forward, having all students end the school year strong, on the same day.

Prom has been canceled, with the possibility that the Prom Committee or another group might find a way to create a virtual prom or reschedule to a summer date.

Senior Project TED Talks and Exhibition will happen virtually. We will absolutely let our community know about timing so that folks can “attend” via videoconferencing.

Advisory Olympics and our Final NEST Meeting , which usually happen on the same day as Graduation, will be redesigned so that we close out our year together, even if we cannot all be together in the same physical location.

Graduation Events including Senior Celebration , Senior Supper , Senior Impersonations, Class Photo and the Graduation Ceremony itself will need to be reimagined to retain the celebratory, individualized nature of our unique school traditions. This is, perhaps, the bitterest pill to swallow, but we are already brainstorming ideas for alternative events and will reach out to seniors and their families soon for input. The current plan is to do some form of Graduation Ceremony on May 29 , whether it is virtual or in person with safe social distancing practices (though not inside at the Community Concert Hall). If you have creative ideas, please don’t hesitate to send them to libby.cowles@animashighschool.com . We promise, the AHS Class of 2020 will be supported, celebrated and graduated with lots of appreciation, joy and love!

We are currently working on protocols to ensure the health and safety of all of our students and staff for our planned return to campus in the fall . AHS is in a unique position to provide a safe and healthy environment due to our small student population. We will continue to consult with the San Juan Basin Public Health Department, the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment, the Colorado Department of Education, Charter School Institute and the Center for Disease Control as we move forward with our plans and we are confident that our smaller school size will be an advantage in providing a safe learning environment for all.

Please email sean.woytek@animashighschool.com with any questions regarding our decision to extend remote teaching and learning through the end of the school year.

This spring has provided challenges for us as school leaders unlike any we ever anticipated, and we can assure you that our graduate programs never covered what to do in a global pandemic! However, we are extremely grateful for the support we continue to receive from our school community, including students, staff, families and board. Providing transformational educational experiences for our students may be more difficult with our school buildings closed, but we all know that Animas High School’s strongest asset has always been its people, not its facility-- and we have the very best in the people department . Thank you for continuing to entrust us with the honor of helping raise up Ospreys.

All best,
Sean and Libby