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Principals, teachers and staff get ready to welcome students back to school

TRMS staff members at work “I really believe that this is the right decision.”

Thunder Ridge Middle School Principal Blakley Wallace and her staff are ready to welcome students back to school, in person, on Aug. 17. 

“I love the fact that our decision is based on science,” Wallace said on Aug. 6, just hours after the Cherry Creek School District announced that the 2020-21 school year would begin in person, rather than remotely. In a letter to parents, Superintendent Dr. Scott Siegfried said the decision was based on scientific public health metrics for Arapahoe County, as well as guidance from the Colorado Department of Education (CDE), the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment (CDPHE) and other public health organizations.

“We have met or exceeded all health guidelines and requirements put out by state and local government agencies to safely return to school,” Siegfried said.

Students in Pre-K through fifth grade will go to school five days a week, while students at Thunder Ridge and other middle and high schools will follow a blended option, with two days of in-person learning and three days of at-home learning. The Cherry Creek School District also offered a 100% Online learning option, which will serve about 9,000 of the district’s 55,000+ students.

Wallace and her staff have prepared the first of many detailed communications to help families prepare for an unusual school year.

TRMS staff members “We’ll be sending out a community letter to let them know what to bring on the first day of school, when will they get their schedules (next Friday, August 14) and what the school day is going to look like,” Wallace explained. “Our traffic patterns haven’t changed much but how children approach the building, where they enter and exit the building, how we move around the building – all of those things have changed.”

The first week of school, Aug. 17-21, will feature a Phased-In schedule, with different, smaller groups of students attending each day, so students and staff can get used to the new safety procedures and protocols. For example, all students and staff will be required to wear a mask, wash their hands frequently, follow physical distancing and remain with their group or “cohort.” 

Wallace understands that students and families may initially feel a little uneasy.  

“We felt the same way when we first came back together in July,” Wallace recalled. “But wearing a mask becomes normal and you get used to it. You forget you have your mask on. You get used to being physically distanced and you start doing things a little differently.

“Yes, you’re anxious at first, but it feels good to get back in the groove of things and get back to school,” she said.

TRMS staff members The staff at Thunder Ridge, and at every other school in the district, will be communicating with students and parents frequently before and during this unusual school year to inform them of the many safety measures that have been put in place, including increased ventilation, sanitizing and disinfecting. You can read about those measures in the Frequently Asked Questions on the CCSD website. In addition, the Cherry Creek School District will be sharing series of short videos on everything from handwashing to riding the bus. The goal is to prevent a COVID outbreak, which could force a shift from In-Person learning to full Remote learning at any time during the school year.

Wallace said the entire district is working diligently to prevent that, because they know how important it is for students to be in school, with their teachers and their peers.

“That social-emotional need is so important,” Wallace said emphatically. “We are going to be here for kids and for families and we’re going to do it safely.”

Posted 7/7/20.