Berthoud Weekly Surveyor | Covering all the angles in the Garden Spot

Berthoud parents, students implore Thompson school board to return to full-time, in-person learning

By: Dan Karpiel | The Surveyor | February 11, 2021 | Education

At last Wednesday’s regular meeting of the Thompson School District (TSD) Board of Education, Berthoud was well-represented during the public comments portion of the meeting.

Seven Berthoud residents, four parents and three students, shared their belief with board that middle and high school students need to return to full-time, in-person learning immediately. Comments from the seven shared a similar tone, speaking to the chances forgone and opportunities lost learning only a handful of days in-person over the last 11 months.

While most comments were sympathetic to the board’s and district’s attempts to make things as normal as possible, the commenters outlined at length numerous instances of difficulties both learning the presented material as well as social, emotional and mental health difficulties that students have been forced to endure.

Christina Thoren, a Berthoud parent, described how her daughter has withdrawn from Berthoud High School and is continuing her education at Loveland’s Resurrection Christian School. “Having eight days of high school, or just slightly more, has forced me to find other options for my child. I had a daughter at Berthoud High last year, a freshman, she was ranked number one in her class and we pulled out this past July for a lack of a plan and I’m really grateful I did because she’s been in-person the entire time. Now my senior, he’s had no school to speak of hardly at all with you guys. It’s not a solution, no decision is not a solution,” she told the board.

Christina’s daughter, Kelsi Thoren, echoed her mother’s sentiments saying, “I’ve been in Berthoud schools my whole life K through ninth grade and they’re really good schools, I always had really good teachers but this year I decided to make the change to go to Resurrection Christian Schools. My friends who have not had this option have hated this year, it’s been the worst year of their schooling, they haven’t gotten their schoolwork, they’re not learning anything, they aren’t seeing their friends, it’s been very bad for their mental health. I think they should go back in person, if this was an option, I’d be in person at Berthoud right now but I’m not.”

The TSD has seen a significant enrollment drop over the previous school year. As reported by the Surveyor in January, the TSD saw a drop of 1,028 students, or roughly 7.5%, from anticipated enrollment across all grade levels in the district’s public schools while the charter schools such as Loveland Classical and New Vision Charter, have seen enrollment spikes. This trend has been noticed state-wide.

Hallie Cook, a junior at Berthoud High School (BHS) and, Paityn Nichols, who attends Turner Middle School, also shared their comments with the board. Cook shared the details of a student-led petition at BHS that garnered 331 signatures of Wednesday night, a figure which represents nearly half of Berthoud High’s enrollment, that asks the board and TSD administration to return to full-time, in-person learning immediately.

Said Cook, “I would encourage the board to take into account the students’ voice on this matter. We as students are advocating for our education and advocating for us going in full time.”

Berthoud resident Paula Hoogland, a mother of three, outlined difficulties she has faced with her children unable to attend school in person saying, “I have watched a significant decline in their mental health and their overall well-being, not to mention their academics. I have heard words from them I never expected to hear, ‘mom, I just want to drop out of school.’” Hoogland continued, “too much time has already passed for us to delay, our students need in-person classes, peer connections, staff mentoring, encouragement, we cannot wait another day.”

Sheree Wilkinson of Berthoud described how her daughter, who also attends Turner, does much better both academically as well as socially when learning in-person saying, “there was more engagement in her classes where she could be seen and heard, other kids are also seen and heard, she’s more excited to learn topics when she goes in person.”

Finally, Cecilia Jamieson of Berthoud, shared an emotion account of what she has witnesses with her son and other students unable to attend school full time in person. “One of our main concerns is the severe, negative effect on the students’ social, emotional and mental health well-being. Many students feel very isolated from their teachers, their peers and their extra-curricular activities. They are becoming increasingly depressed and anxious, we are seeing more cases of acting out, experimenting with drugs, alcohol and risky behavior and also committing suicide at an alarming rate.”

Jamieson told the story of a 15-year old Berthoud girl who has developed an eating disorder as a result of the policies, stating the young woman has lost 20 pounds in six months as she has been reprimanded by teachers for lowering her mask to eat or drink when in-person. Jamieson also mentioned how her son, who plays basketball, is required to wear a mask while playing in empty gyms and that “has changed his whole outlook on the sport and it is very unlikely he will get even the smallest college scholarship.”

The board also voted, 6-1 with Paul Bankes casting the lone vote against, to support a resolution calling on the Colorado Department of Education to forgo administering the state’s Measures of Academic Success assessment tests this year.

The resolution stated the board appreciates the importance of the annual assessment but also expresses a desire for teachers and students to focus on traditional teaching and learning instead of preparing for the assessments. The resolution is largely symbolic, which TSD Superintendent Dr. Marc Schaffer acknowledged, as the decision to whether to hold or cancel the assessments is entirely up to the state.

Board member Marc Seter, whose district represents northeastern Loveland, announced his resignation from the board. Per policy, the board will appoint someone to fill out the remainder or Seter’s term until November’s election when a new member will be elected.

The next meeting of the TSD Board of Education is scheduled for Feb. 17.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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