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Our View: Lost time

Schools, court must now catch up

The good news is that life in Durango and the country in general is getting back on track.

The bad news is that in many cases, making up for lost time will be a challenge, if even possible.

Case in point: Durango School District 9-R’s standardized test scores came back, showing severe deficits as a result of the chaos in education during COVID-19. Patrick Armijo’s article of June 10 (“Durango School District reports poor test results”) laid out the numbers showing that all student groups showed decreases in test scores, particularly in reading and math: 61% of 9-R students are reading at least one grade level below their current grade; and 68% of 9-R students are performing at least one grade level below their proper level in math.

Economically disadvantaged and minority students are doing worse overall than their white peers.

No one is to blame for this, nor is remote learning entirely to blame, really. Remote learning curricula and tools created over time and with appropriate beta-testing could be fabulously successful; remote learning cobbled together in the midst of a pandemic naturally was a stretch. And of course, our low-income and minority students had the hardest time, for many reasons.

Nothing about this should be surprising or even alarming, assuming the school district takes the educational repair job seriously. Children’s brains are plastic; they’re much more resilient than adults’. Provided they receive appropriate support and encouragement, they will thrive in spite of our fears they won’t, especially after they return to the classroom.

Extra care should be taken, of course, to help those 9-R students who have fallen farthest behind. The district should find a way to take advantage of retired teachers and others who would gladly contribute time to tutoring students. As we saw with the volunteer vaccination crews during the pandemic, Durangoans want to help.

Another case in point regarding recovering from the pandemic: The trial of Mark Redwine, accused of killing his 13-year-old son, Dylan, in 2012, has begun – finally – with jury selection this week in district court.

Dylan Redwine was on a court-ordered visit to his father for Thanksgiving when he disappeared. His remains were found a year later about 10 miles from Redwine’s home in Vallecito. Investigators found evidence they said tied Mark Redwine to Dylan’s death. Redwine was indicted by a grand jury in July 2017 and has been in jail ever since. His trial has been postponed numerous times.

Under the Sixth Amendment, Supreme Court precedents and state laws, those accused of crimes must be given a “speedy trial.” Yet even five-year delays in prosecution have been deemed speedy enough, depending on circumstances, in Supreme Court challenges.

Of course, no one could have predicted COVID-19 or the impossibility of holding a trial during the pandemic. The last attempt to try the case, in October 2020, ended in a mistrial in November when Redwine’s defense attorneys reported that members of their team had COVID-19 symptoms. It was rescheduled for January but put off again because of high infection rates in La Plata County.

The boy’s mother, Elaine Hall, and other family and friends have suffered long enough, hoping for resolution. And – guilty or not – Mark Redwine deserves his days in court and the outcome, which will decide his destiny.

Much of society and our systems have yet to gel again. But they will. It’s a bit like turning over an old car that’s been sitting in the garage for six months: The car’s got to remember its purpose and the driver should be patient; cranking the ignition repeatedly is never a good idea. With a patient approach, that engine will get humming again.

And with similar patience, slowly and steadily, we’ll all find our new normal.