COLORADO SPRINGS — Local school districts are hoping to rebound as the new school year gets underway.
Tuesday marked the official first day of school for Falcon School District 49. For some educators, it'll be their first time in a classroom.
"It was pretty unexpected, a lot of twists and turns. Even just starting online in the beginning," said Braden Smart, Falcon Middle School Band, and Choir teacher.
Smart spent his first year of teaching entirely online.
"It was tricky, and there were a lot of things we had to work through. Just to give some perspective, we couldn't have all of the kids playing at the same time one ZOOM because of lag times and all of those kinds of things. We had to have them play individually which sucked a lot of time. We experimented with that and did the best we could" said Smart.
It wasn't easy teaching music over ZOOM or planning performances.
"There were no festivals, no competitions and that was true for most of the state of Colorado. As the year progressed, things started to open up toward the end. Our first concert that should have happened was in March right before Spring Break, but I got COVID the day of the concert. We weren't able to have that concert and that was a letdown for me and kids, but it was the way life went," said Smart. "Thankfully, we were able to have a concert at the end of the year with band and choir. It was an outdoor concert so it was a little different."
As COVID-19 eases, Smart is seeing a huge rebound in fine arts participation.
"That is true in band and choir. My biggest choir right now is sitting at about thirty which is a good improvement from last year. They were at about seventeen last year. The beginning band, last year was about twenty and now is at thirty-five. I just found out that three more will be switching in," said Smart.
Smart is already gearing up for a more normal school year.
"We are planning concerts, we've got at least three performances on the docket for the bands, and four on the docket for the choirs as well. The kids don't know this yet, but I'm planning and working toward having a solo and ensemble festival just as a school," said Smart.
When asked what kept him going through the pandemic challenges,
"You grow to love these kids when you work with them, and I'm really fortunate because I get the same kids through the years. It's fun to see those repeats and see them grow and learn. The growth mindset and really growing to love these kids. I also have great co-workers, I wouldn't have survived last year, my first year, without the coworkers that I have," said Smart.