Elementary schools in DPS returned to in person learning, causing many new challenges to arise for staff.
Over the past month, elementary schools in the Denver Public School district have returned to in person learning. After being virtual since March, they began bringing back the younger students, including kindergarteners, first graders, and second graders. Now, third through fifth graders have returned as well, only to recently find out they would go back to virtual due to the rise in COVID-19 cases in Denver.
Steve Wera, Principal at Bradley Elementary School, described his experience working with kids during the pandemic. Wera said, “It has been difficult, both remote and in person for different reasons.” Both forms of learning have been challenging for both teachers and students, but one thing that has been a very difficult part of teaching during the pandemic is not being able to be near the kids. Karen Maggio, Assistant Principal at Bradley, said, “They are so used to hugs and holding their hands and that’s hard with the little guys.” Kids are also very dependent on being around each other and being able to play with their classmates during recess and after school.
Schools have also been taking extra measures to ensure that everyone stays safe and healthy. Arrival and dismissal procedures have been completely changed. They are doing daily safety screeners and temperature checks when kids arrive while parents stay in their cars. This has added other challenges because a lot of younger kids are used to their parents walking them to the doors or to their classroom. They have also increased their staff to include a full time certified nurse assistant, whose job right now is to track COVID-19, and added full time nurse paraprofessionals. Administrators at Bradley have also thought of fun ways to keep kids a certain distance away from each other. One example is “Zombie arms,” where kids stick their arms out to make sure they are far enough away from each other. They have also thought of a new bathroom system to make sure there are only two kids in a bathroom at a time.
While in person learning is going as smooth as it can for now, no one knows what the near future will look like. With COVID cases on the rise, everyone is unsure what will happen in the next months. Wera said, “My number one concern is student and teacher safety.” He later mentioned that he will leave it to the health professionals to make decisions about what will be the safest option for everyone. Both Wera and Maggio mentioned that the transition from in person learning to remote learning will hopefully be a lot smoother if students get sent home because many teachers and students are becoming more comfortable with learning remotely.
While planning for return to school was a logistical nightmare, everything is going as smooth as it can. Everyone is trying to stay hopeful and positive during these hard times, but safety is the number one priority for schools.