Going back to In-Person

Cherry Creek School District preparing to change the school schedule for the fourth time this year.

This year has been incredibly difficult for students and teachers around the world. While the pandemic is unpredictable, districts have been switching on and off between online and in-person learning. With three schedule changes this year already, students are overwhelmed and burnt out. 

This fourth change will be the riskiest of them all. It involves introducing students back into full in-person classes with cohorts mixing in April, less than two months from the end of the school year. As 3000+ students are coming back together at Eaglecrest, students, staff, and families are completely unsure of what the outcome could be.

An email was sent to families on Friday, March 12th with confirmation that the district will go back to full in-person learning starting April 5th. This still includes social distancing to the best of their ability, the use of masks, and monitoring the wellness of students and staff. The in-person learning schedule will be 5 days a week of in-person school with combined cohorts. Not only that, but families with students who cannot attend in-person learning for any reason are given an alternative of going fully online. With this secondary choice, students will attend virtually 5 days a week, whether it be a live or recorded class, and will be required to complete content provided by their teachers.

While this is another big change for everyone, students and families began expressing their opinions shortly after the email was sent out through a petition on Change.org. The petition was started in hopes of Cherry Creek Schools Superintendent Scott A. Siegfried, Executive Assistant Gincey Mansfield, Assistant Superintendent of Educational Operations Jennifer Perry, and Executive Director High School Education Julie Jaeger seeing it.

“Many critics to the petition are also saying that going full-remote as an option at the beginning of the year. I would like to point out that this was not an option for those in IB, AP, and who have participated in many extracurriculars throughout their high school career. We would have had to give up what we have worked years towards achieving,” stated the petition. Frustration and exhaustion are being expressed throughout our community.

As teachers and administrators are vaccinated, Cherry Creek Schools are on their path to go back to full in-person learning. (ABC News)

 Without a doubt, this change could cause a spike in COVID cases and stress throughout the student body. With over 1,000 signatures and 40 comments, students and some parents have expressed their concerns with the district’s decisions. 

Students around the district left comments addressing their concerns.

“I feel like I just finally settled into the hybrid learning schedule, but now I feel completely unmotivated. I have no clue how I’ll find the motivation to wake up early, do a full day of classes, and do homework each night since I haven’t had to do that all year. I like hybrid learning because it caters to the needs of students who feel safer online AND those who want in-person time” said student Sabrina Wicker.

Unfortunately, students are not only expressing their concerns about their schedule changing again. Many are stressed over their health and the health of their family and loved ones as well. While teachers are getting vaccinated, students are still fully exposed to the virus by other students. With mixed cohorts, it will be difficult to social distance and monitor who is interacting with who. After all, opening the school back up to everyone together would cause students to want to catch up with friends they haven’t gone to school with since the pandemic began. 

Another student, Eaglecrest junior Hannah Echeverio, commented on the petition expressing her concerns with the safety within the overcrowded high schools.

 “I made a petition on this same thing during the FIRST schedule change and to now think that this might be our fourth is ridiculous,” Echeverio said. “Eaglecrest is an extremely overpopulated school. The school has done no effort to get the students vaccinated yet wants to send us straight into a corona hotspot. either get us our vaccinations as well or keep things the same way they are.”

Echeverio is one of many students who have expressed their concerns throughout the year and tried making an effort to have the same impact that Tanya has and get community input through to the district.

With extra time outside of class, students have joined and started other extracurriculars outside and inside of school. (Eaglecrest)

More concerns surrounding this situation involve mental health and personal life problems. This year has been harder than ever on students. With each schedule change, students are forced to learn to manage time and work at a young age. Many have personal commitments out of school that are interfered with by the district’s decision-making throughout the year. Kate Nam and Megan Sullivan are only a small part of those students conveying their concerns.

“This year has already had a large negative impact on student’s mental health and mental health in general. This is largely due to how many changes have been made with our schooling. We have just figured out a good system with this hybrid learning. It is unfair to have us go back full time to another change for the next 2 months if preventable,” commented Megan Sullivan.

Nam and Sullivan both stated some reasonable concerns that apply to students across the district, from commitments that have been made to jobs, to volunteering and other responsibilities that weigh on mental health. While these are only a few more reasons as to why going full in-person is going to impact students negatively, there are plenty more within the comments of the petition. Not only that but although some people prefer to go back in person in order to graduate or pass their classes, after talking to multiple students around Eaglecrest and other schools within the district, it is clear that there is a very limited number of people that believe this change is a good idea. 

Not only that, but students that choose the alternative to go full online will not be getting the same amount of support. As stated in the email sent out about in-person learning by the superintendent, classes will not be interactive like before. Those going online will communicate with teachers regularly on the assignments and tasks they need to complete. Depending on the teacher, classes will either be live-streamed or uploaded to Schoology as a video. Students will be unable to get as much help and support from teachers as they choose the full-online option –though it may be the only option for some. This schedule change is not only affecting students but parents and families as well. A parent by the name of Abaynesh Gebre had also left a comment on the petition. 

Schools being overbooked makes it almost impossible to social distance. (Eaglecrest 2018)

“My daughter is not going to attend school because it is unsafe and unfair. This should be illegal. This year alone has been hard as it is and changing the school year for the fourth time is unnecessary. No one is going to benefit from this and school might shut down again. Students are getting covid more than the teachers. I don’t know who even thought this was a good idea,” Gebre said. Families are beginning to show concern towards the safety of returning. With a large, diverse community, some families cannot take that risk and are forced to go full-online.

As the district begins it’s transition back to full in-person learning, families, students, and staff are anticipating for that time to come as the aftermath will be unknown. While social distancing and all safety procedures will be continued, the sheer number of students returning at once will cause a big change and unknown conditions across the district.