LAPS Elementary Schools Open Doors For Small Group In-Person Instruction

Students line up on the pawprints entering classrooms at Piñon Elementary School. Photo Courtesy LAPS

The Aspen Tiger gives a ‘thumbs up’ to students as they line up to enter classrooms at Aspen Elementary. Photo Courtesy LAPS


Los Alamos elementary schools opened their doors this week for small group in-person instruction. Students and staff were happy to see each other while maintaining a safe distance and wearing masks.  One third grade student said: “this is fun, it feels like a family reunion.”

Supt. Kurt Steinhaus made a point to especially thank our teachers and Instructional Assistants who were at school with perfect attendance. “We are fortunate to have highly-qualified instructional staff in the Los Alamos schools.”

Brian Grass, principal at Mountain, was “pleasantly surprised at how smoothly the line ups and the dismissals went. The kids and parents slipped right back into the routines we established in the Fall. The teachers and IAs were delighted to have life back in the building!”

“The Aspen staff could not wait to see their students today,” said Aspen Principal Michele Altherr.  “The students were excited and happily surprised to be greeted by Aspen the Tiger.”  

“What a treat it was to see the kids in person,” he added.

Students were happy and excited to be back in-person, noted Chamisa Principal Craig Washnok, as they made their way into classrooms Thursday afternoon.

“We could see the smiles from both students and teachers, even through the masks. It feels like there is life back into our building. A school is not a school without our students and teachers here,” Washnok said.

The current elementary school schedule calls for the continuation of remote core instruction in the morning Monday through Friday. Small group in-person instruction is separated into green and gold groups with the green cohort attending in-person on Monday and Tuesday afternoons, and the gold cohort attending Thursday and Friday afternoons. 

Specials for the green group are Thursday and Friday afternoon. Specials for the gold group are Monday and Tuesday afternoon. Wednesday afternoons are reserved for student self-directed time, teacher planning, and school building cleaning and disinfecting. 

“We had a great restart into our in-person learning today at Piñon,” noted Principal Ivanna Austell. “Both the morning and afternoon sessions ran very smoothly, with staff, students, and parents falling seamlessly back into all our safety procedures. The students were thrilled to be back in their classrooms, some even complaining that the day was too short!” PreK students attend a program at Piñon in the mornings, while small group in-person instruction for K through 6th grade is held in the afternoon.

Once the weather turns warmer, schools will expand use of outdoor learning. Here is a link to more information: National COVID-19 Outdoor Learning Initiative.

Any change to the current schedule would be made based upon the science, data analysis and recommendations from professionals. For example, elementary schools may have to return to fully remote if there is an increase in infection rates or if the staff vaccination rate is above 80% and students can return full time.

The new schedule is designed to minimize changes for teachers, students and parents. Careful consideration was given to maintaining core instruction time five days a week and providing in-person instruction opportunities, as well as ensuring planning time for teachers.

Even though there is no in-person lunch, the free breakfast and lunch pick-up program is still available. Meals may be picked up on Tuesday and Friday at Aspen Elementary School and Piñon Elementary School from 11:00 am to 12:30 pm.