The New Normal

Welcome to our new normal.

My English teacher wrote these words in an email one week after our school district decided to close its doors for an extended spring break. Shortly before she sent that email, Colorado Governor Jared Polis announced that he would give an executive order to close all schools in the state until April 17th. Our two-week break suddenly turned into five weeks that would involve a paradigm shift in the way we learn and live.

One week after that, Governor Polis implemented an emergency Stay At Home Order for the state of Colorado. The order set the changes we were adapting to in writing officially. Not only were students being faced with the challenge of their lives changing suddenly, they now faced a sense of confinement to compliment.

Uncertainty has run rampant throughout the changes. After all, society has been forced into an undesirable situation. A situation that comes with a lot of loss — Loss of jobs, time, and physical connection to the community. Society is being forced to take unprecedented measures to yield a desirable outcome. But the steps to get there, whether they are being implemented by measures from our leaders or even members of society, are painful.  The situation almost reminds me of the episode “Stairmageddon” in Season 9 of The Office when Jim is facing difficulties with his wife Pam.

These steps taken to remedy our current situation (like closing school, implementing Stay At Home Orders) are similar to when Jim says to Toby, “If [Pam] can just hang on for a little while longer, this will be so huge for our family.” But Pam is like every individual, and the family is our world as we know it. Toby, a soft-spoken and mild-mannered HR rep, sums up the issue when he asks, “What’s the end date? It must be really hard for [Pam] to sign on to be unhappy if she doesn’t know when it’s gonna end.” But Jim, just like the dynamics of the situation, ultimately says “That’s kind of an impossible question.”

Students in America are struggling to sign on to being unhappy when they don’t know the end date. To ask when it’s going to end is an impossible question. Just two weeks ago, students were told they would be back to normal in a little over two weeks. One week later, two weeks turned into five. Some states like Kansas have even made the decision to suspend in-person learning at schools through the rest of the academic year, which means things may not be normal until next August. But the truth is, we will never be back to normal. This is the new normal.

Don’t think that statement means our new lives are meant to be spent in confinement and in front of computer screens. That may be the reality for now, but certainly won’t be the reality forever. Humans are social creatures after all. There will be a day where we step back foot in the on-campus classroom. We will return to malls, movie theatres, and restaurants. To an extent, things will be back to normal. But the substantial temporary changes in society will leave subtle permanent changes in society.

While school districts across the country are increasing access to technology, adaptation in the classroom isn’t as fast as a snap of the finger. Some educators embrace technology and incorporate it into daily lesson plans. Some educators use a mix, some don’t use technology at all. With the new, temporary normal, technology will be the lesson plan. Educators will now be forced to take the chance, to see what works and what doesn’t. The result is the new, permanent normal. Educators using more resources to effectively enhance and differentiate learning.

However, the new normal affects more than students and education. The workforce in the United States has rapidly switched temporarily from working primarily in-office to working from home. On the surface, the switch to working from home aims to keep us healthy for the time being. Going below the surface, the effects will be long-lasting, being that we are forced to see the benefits of working from home. Even early on, top executives are seeing that the temporary change could grow to levels of permanence. Lindsey Jacobson from CNBC reported that Jennifer Christie, chief HR officer at Twitter, concurs: “I don’t think we’ll go back to the same way we used to operate, I really don’t.” 

The new normal of working at home for business means a possible reduction in cubicle farms in lieu of working in the comfort of your own home, even if just partially. Working from home eliminates unnecessary travel (and the carbon footprint that comes with it) by leveraging the power of teleconferencing. The new normal embraces the benefits of working from home, something society was once slow at accepting. 

Our new normal begins with startling shifts in the way society functions that force us to think and work differently. As we slowly start to ease into previous routines, there is no doubt that something will be different. The small changes will have substantial effects on our future. We can handle these changes with complaints and doubts, or we can welcome them with open arms. The latter is the way to go because when we embrace the new normal, it will be just normal.

EHS Swim & Dive Coaches Resign

ERIE- On February 27th, Kelly Shipley and Ann Apple resigned from their positions as Head Coach and Assistant Coach of Erie High School’s Swim and Dive team. The resignation comes after the team took 8th place overall at the CHSAA 3A Swimming and Diving Championships, with many individual placements. Shipley, who also was a science teacher at Erie High School, resigned from her teaching position as well.

In an email to swimming and diving participants and parents, Shipley cited “the lack of support at the district and building level for girls swimming led us to this decision.”

While EHS’s administrators would not comment on personnel matters, they did provide a financial overview of the Girl’s Swimming and Diving program in comparison across other programs in St. Vrain Valley Schools and other sports at Erie High School.

In the overview, Athletic Director Justin Carpenter noted that the allocation of stipends for coaching staff happens primarily on the district level. The district sets a certain percentage for stipends for each sport, with 100% being one full stipend for a program, and 200% meaning two full stipends.

SVVSD mandates that any swimming and diving program receives a 200% base stipend. EHS Girls Swimming and Diving received a 250% stipend, with the additional 50% stipend going towards an assistant dive coach. SVVSD provides a 150% stipend allocation for a district-wide diving coach. This means that all diving programs in SVVSD (Longmont, Silver Creek, Skyline, Niwot, and Erie) received coaching from one dedicated diving coach. However, with the extra stipend, Erie divers received more individualized coaching than any other dive team in SVVSD.

In addition to the base 200% stipend and the extra 50% stipend allocated by SVVSD, both EHS and EHS Athletics provided additional stipends. The Athletic Director of EHS provided an additional stipend of $1,257.90. That stipend was allocated this past summer, given the demand for the program in its first season. The principal of EHS also provided a second additional stipend at the beginning of the season, in the amount of $1,437.60.

Compared to other teams in the district, EHS had more pool time than any other program in SVVSD. Every week, EHS swimmers received 55 hours of lane time (1 lane x 1 hour = 1 hour of lane time). Meanwhile, every other team across the district received between 33.5 and 35 hours of lane time each week. The administration also added that due to maintenance at one of the pools that the other four schools share, during the first month of practice, (from 11/18-11/15) those schools got less than 3 hours of practice time a week. Erie Girls Swimming and Diving was unaffected by that maintenance. To compare pool time, we also must account for the number of participants across the programs. Erie had 105 participants on their team, while the next biggest program, Silver Creek, had 71 participants. Dividing the amount of lane time at their peaks by the number of participants, Erie still had more lane time per swimmer than Silver Creek.

The information provided by EHS provides three key insights for the support of the team. The first being that from coaching stipends, EHS swim and dive received more than any other swim and dive program in SVVSD through an extra 50% for a diving coach, and two extra stipends given from the athletic director and principal. The second is that because of the additional coach stipend, the EHS dive team received more individualized coaching than any other team in SVVSD. Finally, the team was provided more pool time than any other team in SVVSD. 

At face value, it seems clear that EHS swim and dive was very supported financially by the district, and even more so supported by EHS administration when the support the district provided wasn’t adequate. However, the word support is not limited to financial aspects. While Shipley declined to comment on the matter at this time, her resignation letter explains her view of the situation.

In the letter to EHS Principal Matt Buchler, in which she resigned from coaching and teaching, Shipley explained: “When you repeatedly refuse to support the girls’ swim team in an equitable way to the boys’ sports teams, despite our size and logistical needs, this is sexism.” 

Shipley claimed in the letter that when she voiced those concerns, Buchler called her “high maintenance.”

Further in the letter, Shipley described Buchler to “have created a toxic culture of fear, where blind loyalty is rewarded and facts don’t matter,” and continues with “Anyone who dares to speak out against [Buchler] had better get used to being a pariah, and had better start looking for a new job.”

Buchler declined to comment on these accusations. 

After Shipley’s resignation, parent Paul Olson sent an email to the swimmers, divers, and their parents that outlined three main points: Don’t give up, you are the team, and we move forward together.

In the first point, Olson discussed that Shipley and Apple did not give up on the team. “While giving you incredible love and support, they received the opposite from the school administration. Starting last year, Coach Shipley began fighting an exhausting battle, including, but not limited to, a lack of funding, a lack of coaches, and an unwillingness to cover fees equitably.” Olson continued “In order to shed light on an issue of inequities across multiple sports at Erie High School, she left teaching and coaching to help make a better future for all of you.”

Olson made sure to note in the second point that the team is not made up of the coaches, but rather the swimmers and divers. But most importantly, Olson outlined in the third point outlined that the team would meet together on the evening of Monday, March 2nd, and attend the Board of Education meeting on Wednesday, March 11th, to address their concerns.

At the meeting on March 2nd, athletes and parents brought up questions on if the school was in Title IX compliance, using East Bay as the official school vendor, the administration culture towards the team and the coaches, and what EHS Swim and Dive will look like next year in light of Frederick High School adding their own team.

As for Title IX compliance, Bart Lillie, a parent of a swimmer, outlined in an email sent out to swimmers, divers, and parents that they will be contacting SVVSD’s Title IX compliance officer to raise concerns.

When it comes to using East Bay as an official vendor, Lillie mentioned that Shipley questioned the legality of forcing coaches to use East Bay as their vendor. Nonetheless, EHS still used East Bay as the vendor for the season.

As for moving forward into next season, parents and athletes raised concerns with Frederick High School introducing their own team. Carpenter explained that there is a joint-use agreement in place between the Carbon Valley Parks & Recreation District and SVVSD. What this means is that with the introduction of Frederick High School’s own team, the lanes allocated for SVVSD schools will remain the same unless SVVSD renegotiates the contract terms. In turn, Erie Swim would have less available lane space in the upcoming season.

Lillie mentioned in his email that Shipley had met with the Executive Athletic Director for SVVSD, Chase McBride, and alleged that McBride said “[Erie] will split the pool with Frederick.” 

Further, when Shipley met with the dean for Carbon Valley Recreation Center, the dean implied that Frederick High School would have priority as it is their pool (Carbon Valley Recreation Center is located in Frederick). 

For now, student-athletes, parents, and community members plan to bring up their concerns with the district Title IX compliance officer, the area superintendent, and at the Board of Education meeting on Wednesday, March 11th.