While the end of the longest school year comes to an end, TJ is thankful for the lessons and opportunities that have come from COVID-19.
After ending last year online, Thomas Jefferson had high hopes of returning to the school at the beginning of the year. Unfortunately, COVID-19 presented a year-long obstacle that postponed this idea. Despite staff and students remaining at home for much of the year, TJ was still able to continue its values of community in different forms.
COVID-19 had also put a major dent into the classroom setting. Learning from home proved difficulty, but students and staff prevailed. Principal Mike Christoff spoke on the difficulties of online learning, “Commiting to teaching live classes every day, even though the schedule is a little different, is a lot. It’s a lot for the teachers and it’s a lot for the students, but in the end, educationally you do see the benefits of it.” In order to provide students with the most exposure to content as possible, time for each class was extended. Students were given a full day of office hours in the first semester to seek help or receive extra time for their classes. During the second semester, students were able to opt in to begin learning in person twice a week.
COVID-19 presented obstacles that TJ was able to overcome. After spring break, COVID-19 restrictions had been lifted slightly and the larger groups of people became eligible for vaccines. This allowed for more students to sign up to return to school and be there for four days of the week. With almost half of the school in person, the year felt a little bit more normal. To help fight the virus, TJ had 700 doses of the vaccine available for TJ students, family, and community members. This had granted TJ the opportunity to provide more activities for their students including Prom, Powder puff games, and class events.
The Colorado High School Activities Association (CHSAA) approved some of the typical fall sports: cross country, boys’ tennis, boys’ golf, and softball. The rest of the fall sports were moved to March. The seasons were cut down to seven weeks and COVID-19 restrictions were put in place. “Coaches were super diligent about trying to keep kids safe in pods,” said Christoff. Despite participation being at a low, the athletes did exceptionally well at their regional and state competitions. TJ’s athletics continued to show true dedication throughout the rest of the remaining seasons; the football team was able to win the 4A State Championship this year. This was the first state title won by TJ for football in 32 years. “The kids really came together to make this happen for the school,” said Erin Thompson, one of the guidance counselors and leadership teachers. One of the best ways students were able to interact was through playing sports.
While the year has been a roller coaster of “what ifs,” TJ is hopeful for next year. Thompson echoed how she is most looking forward to “seeing kids, having events, having a homecoming, and having students want to be at school.” TJ is a community driven school, which was hard to promote online. Thankfully, the school was able to keep kids involved with virtual events and social media posts to keep things normal. Throughout the month of May, more events were planned for students to attend. Some events did not require masks but did require vaccinations, including the junior versus senior powder puff game.
TJ was given challenges from the pandemic that easily prevailed in the students’ best interest. The staff is just as thankful as students to be back inside the building next school year, including Christoff, “I’m looking forward to next year, getting a more normal feeling, and seeing all of the students.” TJ plans to make up for the lost opportunities of student activities next year. The year felt like it lasted a decade, but Spartans have high hopes and are eager to return for the next school year.